TACOMA, WA –Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist charged Sopheap Chith, 32, with drive-by shooting, felony assault, possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of a firearm, reckless driving, hit and run and driving with a suspended license for his involvement in the Puyallup shooting that led to a collision with a school bus earlier this week.
“This is another example of the serious dangers posed by convicted felons illegally possessing firearms,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Thankfully and luckily, the victim of the drive-by shooting, the school children, and their bus driver all escaped injury.”
On February 5, 2013, the defendant fired two gunshots from inside a stolen Honda Civic while driving south on Meridian Avenue. A nearby witness began to follow the defendant, who then pushed the shattered glass out of his window and fired two additional shots toward the witness.
Driving at a high speed, the defendant ran a red light and was struck by a school bus. The driver and elementary students in the bus were not injured. The defendant fled the scene in the stolen vehicle.
Shortly thereafter, a witness at a nearby apartment complex called police to report the same Honda Civic abandoned. The witness stated that two males and two females stripped the vehicle of its wheels, and then fled in an Acura Integra.
Pierce County Sheriff deputies stopped the suspect vehicle. In the vehicle, deputies identified Tiffany LaPlante, who was with the defendant throughout the incident. Also in the vehicle was Sothea Chum. Chum helped strip the stolen vehicle of its wheels. They explained to the deputies that they dropped the defendant off several blocks away. Both are charged with possession of a stolen vehicle. Police arrested the defendant in a nearby Walgreens parking lot. The defendant was convicted of felony theft in 2012.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be forthcoming. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, February 8, 2013, at 1:30 p.m., in Courtroom 270 in the County City Building in Tacoma. On February 6, 2013, the defendant was arraigned on a charge of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle in an unrelated case. Bail was set at $1,000,000. Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
For more information, please contact Emily Conlee at (253) 798-6265, [email protected].