Peach Springs residents on edge over shooting

The fatal shooting of a 16-year-old American Indian has his family, friends and community on edge.

Daniel Kaska was killed by a Hualapai tribal police officer around 7:30 p.m.

Sunday in the area of Coyote Street and High View Road in Peach Springs, just feet from his great-grandmother's house.

Macie Powskey said she was lying on her couch when she heard what sounded like a firecracker.

Interviewed Friday, Powskey said Kaska had spent most of that day with her before walking down the street to another house and then returning to her house.

He would leave again to join friends before he was shot.

Powskey said Kaska lived either with his mother, Denise Sine, a few blocks away, or with his father, Ray Kaska, in Truxton.

Kaska's friend Lone Wolf, who lives just a block from the shooting scene, said he was standing at his doorway when the tribal officer stopped Kaska.

He said his friend was carrying an ax, which he brought up and down a couple of times before dropping it.

Seconds after dropping the ax, the officer shot Kaska once in the chest as he was raising his hands in the air, Lone Wolf recounted Friday.

"The cop used too much force toward Daniel," he said.

"He was unprofessional."

Lone Wolf said Kaska had been upset with his girlfriend.

Another friend of Kaska's, who asked not to be identified, said she and Lone Wolf were yelling at Kaska to "chill out" and do what the officer ordered him to do even if it meant being arrested.

Kaska's mother said the community is upset about the shooting and is seeking an attorney for possible legal action against the tribal police department.

She said her son was turning his life around, having just returned from a 90-day drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Phoenix.

On July 12, he would have turned 17, she added, her voice choking.

"The way this situation was handled, no child, no family should go through this," Sine said.

"This could have been handled in a different manner.

It could have been prevented.

No one should have died that day.

I'm hoping justice would be served."

Sine as well as Lone Wolf, Kaska's other friends and a cousin all said Kaska was a different person when he returned several weeks ago from Phoenix.

Kaska was turning his back to drugs and alcohol and had even turned to God, they said.

Sine said the small ax Kaska had when he was shot was his grandmother's, used to chop wood.

Kaska had a good sense of humor and liked to play jokes on people, his mother said.

He also liked to draw and take photographs.

"You couldn't leave a camera around without him taking a picture," she added.

Kaska, being mostly Yavapai Apache but partly from the Hualapai Nation, will be buried at the Camp Verde Indian Reservation.

Neither the tribal police department nor the FBI has released Kaska's name.

Hualapai Nation police Chief Francis Bradley said the tribal officer shot a juvenile once Sunday evening while the teenager was carrying a sharp object.

The name of the eight-year veteran police officer also has not been released.

"The officer was confronted by a juvenile male who was armed with a sharp object," Bradley said.

He said the officer who was involved in the shooting was responding to a report of a female being assaulted by a male juvenile swinging a bat at her.

Bradley would not confirm whether that juvenile was Kaska.

Bradley said backup officers arrived moments after the shooting to find a crowd of about 100 people.

Medical assistance arrived about eight minutes later.

Kaska died en route to Kingman Regional Medical Center.

The FBI is continuing its investigation of the shooting.

Bradley said a Phoenix newspaper erroneously cited a report that the shooting was justified.

"The Hualapai Tribal Police Department expresses its sincere condolences to the young man's family as well as the community at this tragic loss of life," Bradley said.

"I will ensure a complete, fair and impartial investigation into the shooting will be conducted."

The shooting investigation should take several months, Bradley said.

He said the incident was the first fatal shooting involving an officer with the year-old tribal police department or the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs officers on the reservation.

The bureau provided law enforcement for the community before the police department was created, Bradley said.

Bradley also said the officer involved had never been previously involved in a shooting.

The chief added that there is a great deal of unrest in the community.

He emphasized that the community's cooperation is necessary to maintain calm so the investigation can be completed.

Bradley said there have been several instances of patrol cars being pelted with rocks since the shooting.

No officers have been hurt.

Besides Bradley, the department currently has five patrol officers, not counting the officer involved in the shooting, who has been placed on administrative leave, and a criminal investigator.

He said the department does not have equipment such as pepper spray, beanbags rounds or other non-lethal weapons used by larger departments.