Q&A with Klamath County District Attorney David Schutt

Klamath County District Attorney David Schutt was appointed by the Governor on Dec. 21, 2023, and officially began his job on Feb. 3. On May 5, he attended the National Day of Awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People, an annual event held by the Klamath Tribes at the fitness center in Chiloquin. He was a guest speaker at the event and graciously took time for an impromptu Q&A with the Klamath Tribes.

What are the challenges for your office to address the concerns with issues of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Persons?

Right now, really, it’s resources and just a lack of a connection. Resources and the fact that we used to have resident deputies out here, but now we’ve got the tribal resource, and the tribal public safety office is going to be opening up. But I just think that it’s hard to develop trust, considering that the system has let them down so frequently and so often. It’s just a matter of making a connection and keep showing up, keep coming in and keep the lines of communication open, and keep working with people to make sure that their needs are addressed, and the cases are dealt with.

Do you have any experience in the past with tribal missing persons and murders?

This is my third time being back in the DA’s office in Klamath, so I had some dealings with some of the cases here. And I’ve had some in my first times here, but that was it.

How many years have you worked as a DA?

I started in 1996 at the DA’s office in Klamath until 2000. And then from 2000 to 2012, I was the DA in Lake County. And then, I was here from 2017 to 2020. And then I was in Lake County as a Defense Attorney. And now I’m back. 

So, this is your first time being in a tribal territory?

As the District Attorney, but I mean, I’ve worked in Klamath before. I remember the very first time when I worked under Ed Caleb, and they had somebody from the tribe come and talk on relating to the tribe and everything. I was really excited, and I remember I was just making eye contact with the individual because I was really interested in what he had to say. And halfway through, he’s talking about cultural norms. He’s like, it’s considered rude, staring into somebody’s eyes and make eye contact. I’ve always wanted to make the connection. And I think it’s just a matter of putting in the time and being open to listening to people.

What are some of the things that you think you need to work on to develop the trust that you say is probably lacking at this point?

I just want to have a meeting with them and find out what exactly it is that they want. Find out what are some concrete goals and some concrete things that I can do and our office can do to meet some of their needs. And then just to do those. I think people have talked to the people in Chiloquin way too much. I mean, it’s the actions and follow-through that are going to develop trust.

Have you got any open case files of tribal members that you’re aware of?


How many?

I’m aware of five or six, but I’m sure we have a lot more. I mean, the ones that I’m dealing with mostly are the felonies.

How do you close those? How do you pursue them?

It’s just like any other case. I mean, the difficulties are, you know, just getting law enforcement to do some follow-up. But it’s just like anything else. I mean, you figure out what it is you have, what crimes do you think occurred and then getting the information needed to prosecute him?

What are your feelings about some of these cases being brought to justice? Do you think you have a good chance?

Every case is individual. If you want, I can get you a list of some cases, and we can talk about it if they’re not ongoing investigations. But every case is unique.

I know they have a system set up in the state to work with tribes. A new system for investigation and follow-up? Have you been in touch with them?

No, not since I’ve been here. I’ve talked to the governor’s office, and we’re working through their tribal liaison, but I haven’t had any concrete contact with that yet.

Are you staying for the long-term here as DA?

Yes, this is where I want to retire. This is where I want to end my career.

That gives you a little more time to develop relationships with the Tribes.

I hope so. That’s my goal. I talked to the Chairman of the Council, and I would like to set up, after we have the first meeting, set up a continuing meeting, whether it’s quarterly, monthly, bi-monthly. I want to continue the lines of communication so that if there’s an issue when an issue develops, we can deal with it as soon as it comes up.