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March 20, 2023

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14-year-old boy murdered in Tacoma was waiting at bus stop before shooting, charges say


TACOMA — A teenager arrested for the murder of a 14-year-old boy in Tacoma was charged Tuesday in Pierce County Superior Court.

William Isaac Kalama, 17, is accused of shooting the boy from a car he was allegedly driving Thursday on Portland Avenue East. According to charging documents, the victim was waiting at a bus stop with three other young people when Kalama opened fire, striking the boy and sending two of them running.

The victim has not yet been identified by the Pierce County medical examiner, but news media and family members have identified him as Xaviar Siess. The boy’s stepfather told KING 5 that Siess was a bright young man who only wanted to help others.

The accused gunman was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, drive-by shooting and two counts of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. According to court records, he was previously convicted in 2021 of second-degree robbery.

Pleas of not guilty were entered on Kalama’s behalf at arraignment Tuesday afternoon. The defendant is expected to be prosecuted as an adult, but he is being held at Remann Hall, Pierce County’s juvenile detention center. Judge Timothy Ashcraft set bail at $1.5 million.

In arguing for that amount of bail, deputy prosecuting attorney Lena Berberich-Eerebout referred to Kalama’s alleged actions, saying that shooting into a crowded bus stop put four people at risk.

“The state believes that this behavior exhibits a complete disregard to the safety of others and poses a significant danger to the community and that high bail is appropriate,” Berberich-Eerebout said in court.

Charging documents don’t offer much information about a possible motive, but they provide a clearer picture of how the shooting occurred and what led Tacoma Police Department to identify Kalama as the gunman. The records show law enforcement used surveillance video from multiple businesses on Portland Avenue, vehicle records and an interview with a person described as the defendant’s girlfriend to zero in on Kalama.

The vehicle detectives believe Kalama was driving in the shooting was found parked in a residential neighborhood at East 35th and T streets, according to the declaration for determination of probable cause. It was a silver 2022 Honda Accord, and while a search warrant had not yet been executed, records state an expended shell casing, a rifle charging handle and a red bandanna were seen inside.

When he was arrested Monday, Kalama was found in possession of a .38-caliber handgun, according to the probable cause document. Investigators also allegedly found a .45-caliber handgun in his bedroom when a search warrant was served at his residence. Records state several .45-caliber shell casings were found near the shooting scene.

Drive-by shooting on Portland Avenue

Tacoma police officers were dispatched just before 3 p.m. to Portland Avenue and East 40th Street for a report of a shooting, according to the probable cause document. Witnesses reported hearing six to eight gunshots. Officers arrived and found Siess with a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Another 14-year-old boy who was with Siess and the others when the shooting occurred was putting pressure on the victim’s wound when police arrived, records state. Siess was transported to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital where he died of his injuries.

Detectives reviewed surveillance video from multiple nearby businesses, and at least two captured the shooting. One showed several angles toward Portland Avenue, and at 2:57 p.m. a silver vehicle could be seen going south in the right lane of the street, records state. The car passed the four people at the bus stop but then stopped before reaching the intersection of East 40th Street. The car reversed, then turned into the left lane, cutting off other vehicles going south, according to the probable cause document.

What looked like a handgun could then be seen protruding from the driver’s side window and gunshots were heard, investigators wrote in court records. Siess can be seen falling to the ground, and two others ran off while another crouched to the ground. The vehicle then turned left at East 40th Street and turned onto East Q Street.

A few minutes later, the two young people who had run away returned. Records state that the two crouched down for several seconds and then left with Siess’ backpack. Prosecutors wrote in charging documents that detectives are still working to identify those two people. It’s unclear why they took the victim’s backpack.

Recovered vehicle leads to suspect

After the vehicle was found abandoned, detectives contacted its registered owner, who stated it belonged to her granddaughter, according to the probable cause document. The granddaughter spoke with detectives, who asked her who had been driving the vehicle on Jan. 12. She initially said she had been driving it, but eventually said it was her boyfriend “William,” when detectives pressed her further. Records state she was later shown a photo of Kalama, and she identified him as her boyfriend.

In a later interview, the granddaughter said that on the day of the shooting, she and her boyfriend had decided to go to 7-Eleven on Portland Avenue to get snacks.

“As they were driving on Portland Ave, they passed a bus stop,” prosecutors wrote in charging documents. “She stated that her boyfriend looked like he was angry. Shortly after, as she was looking at the 7-11, she heard shots fired, and said that the shots ‘appeared to have come from inside her vehicle.’ She stated that her boyfriend then sped off.”

The granddaughter told detectives she didn’t speak to her boyfriend until they got to her residence. Prosecutors wrote in the probable cause document that she asked her boyfriend “why he did what he did,” but the documents don’t go into further detail.

This story was originally published January 17, 2023 2:31 PM.