Claims seek $35 million from Tacoma School District in Foss death
Family members of a slain Foss High School student filed wrongful death claims Thursday seeking $35 million or more from the Tacoma School District.
They say the school district should have done more to prevent the January 2007 shooting of 17-year-old junior Samnang Kok.
Specifically, they argue that the district should have known that Douglas S. Chanthabouly, who was charged in Kok’s killing, “suffered from severe extreme mental illness,” which posed a direct threat to students and staff.
“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Samnang Kok,” said school district attorney Susan Schreurs. “And we’re saddened by the impact it has had on his family and on the entire Foss community.”
She said she does not believe there was any negligence by the district. The claims will be handled by an outside attorney, she said.
If they are rejected, the family would be free to sue.
“This is just a tragic event,” said attorney Ben Barcus, who filed the seven separate claims on behalf of Kok’s estate, parents, siblings and son. “It appears the school district had the opportunity to change and made a conscious decision not to do that.”
According to Barcus, the district failed to beef up security measures after a 1992 shooting, despite purchasing metal detectors the following year.
“They were used very little and then fell by the wayside,” he said. “So, they had many, many years of notice.”
School officials told The News Tribune in January that metal detectors were tested years ago and their use was not feasible.
Court records filed as Chanthabouly’s competency to stand trial was evaluated showed that the district was aware of his mental illness and the danger he posed, Barcus said.
In January, a little more than a year after the shooting, a Pierce County judge ruled that Chanthabouly, who has a history of schizophrenia, was too mentally ill to understand the legal proceedings against him.
Barcus said he filed the claims now because it did not look like the accused killer’s status would change any time in the near future.
School Board President Jim Dugan declined to comment, saying he had not reviewed the claims.
Staff writer Kris Sherman contributed to this report.
Ian Demsky: 253-597-8872