Teenager pleads not guilty

January 5, 2007 

Douglas S. Chanthabouly, 18, is led out of Pierce County Superior Court on Thursday after being charged with the shooting death of a fellow student.

DREW PERINE; THE NEWS TRIBUNE

A teenager charged Thursday with shooting a fellow student to death at Tacoma’s Foss High School had taken guns to school before, court records state.

A relative of Douglas S. Chanthabouly told detectives he saw the teenager “possess firearms in the past for the purpose of buying and selling them” and knows Chanthabouly took “a gun to school in the past,” according to a complaint for a search warrant filed Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court.

Tacoma School District spokeswoman Patti Holmgren said district officials were unaware Chanthabouly had ever brought a gun to campus.

“He’d be gone if he had and we knew about it,” Holmgren said. “That’s an automatic expulsion. There’s a zero-tolerance policy on that.”

Police interviewed the relative Wednesday as part of their investigation into the death of Samnang Kok, 17, who was gunned down Wednesday morning in a hall in the north end of the school. Foss is located at 2112 S. Tyler St.

Numerous witnesses told police Chanthabouly was the gunman, according to court records. The 18-year-old junior was arrested about two hours after the shooting.

On Thursday, prosecutors charged Chanthabouly with one count of first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty, and Judge Stephanie Arend ordered him jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

Deputy prosecutor Ed Murphy told Arend during Chanthabouly’s arraignment that the teenager had confessed to the crime but offered no motive.

“I can’t tell you why. I don’t want it in the news,” Chanthabouly told detectives, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Investigators offered no firm motive for the shooting. The two teens were acquaintances and might have had a dispute over money or property, police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Thursday.

Police have maintained that the incident does not appear gang-related, but Chanthabouly associated with gang members and dressed like them, the relative told investigators.

When he was arrested Wednesday, Chanthabouly was wearing bright blue shoelaces in his shoes, according to the complaint for the search warrant.

“TPD officers recognize that such colored shoelaces have been associated with street gangs in Tacoma,” the records state. Members of the Crips gang are known to wear blue.

Chanthabouly’s mother, Chantha Chanthabouly, attended her son’s arraignment Thursday. She sobbed when he was led into court in shackles and a bright orange jail uniform.

She said after the hearing that she was sorry for Kok’s family and had no clue why her son would kill the young father.

“Only God can tell,” she said.

Chanthabouly’s uncle, Kannha Bounchanh, called his nephew “a nice boy.”

“He’s not a troubled kid,” Bounchanh said after the arraignment.

According to the charging papers, Chanthabouly saw Kok at the school before classes began Wednesday morning and walked up to him in the school’s north-end “300 hallway.”

Chanthabouly raised his hand, pointed a 9 mm handgun at Kok and said, “What’s up?”

He then fired one shot at Kok’s face from less than a foot away, charging documents state.

Kok fell to the floor. Chanthabouly then stood over Kok and fired two more shots into him before waving the gun at several witnesses and fleeing, according to the documents.

During an interview with detectives, Chanthabouly said he didn’t know Kok but knew of him. Other witnesses have said the two were acquaintances.

Detectives learned Thursday that a 9 mm handgun Chanthabouly was carrying when he was arrested was stolen during a burglary at a South End Tacoma house in May 1999, Fulghum said.

No arrests have been reported in the burglary.

Chanthabouly did not tell investigators how he got the gun, Fulghum said, and investigators planned to turn their focus to where the gun has been since the burglary and how Chanthabouly got it.

Investigators also will be looking into whether the weapon has been used in any other crimes, Fulghum said.

Tacoma resident Durrell Rush, 18, said Thursday that he knew both Kok and Chanthabouly, but said he didn’t know they were acquainted.

Rush said Chanthabouly, whom he met at school, “didn’t really extend himself” personally to anyone. If someone asked for his opinion, Chanthabouly would usually respond, “It’s cool,” but didn’t offer much else, Rush said.

Rush said he worked briefly with Kok at a Tacoma McDonald’s in the spring of 2006 and saw him in the halls at Foss. They both were striving to become adults and hoping for something better than a job at the restaurant, he said.

Rush can’t fathom why Chanthabouly would lash out at Kok.

“He never would have done something to someone unless they picked on him first,” Rush said.

The victim’s brother, Rith Kok, told reporters following Chanthabouly’s arraignment that Samnang was “just a lovable person.”

“That’s it. Please, that’s it,” he said as he tried to leave the County-City Building in downtown Tacoma. Staff writers Stacey Mulick and Paul Sand contributed to this report.

Memorial Service

WHAT: Memorial service for Samnang Kok, open to anyone who knew him

WHEN: Viewing begins 11 a.m. Tuesday, sermon at noon

WHERE: Southside Baptist Church, 626 S. 86th St., Tacoma

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