Kent teen charged with murder of teen during gun exchange

Two Renton teens also charged in September shooting in Kirkland

A Kent teen and two Renton teens were charged by King County prosecutors with first-degree murder for allegedly killing an 18-year-old man in September at Kirkland’s Houghton Beach Park during an apparent gun sale.

Calvin S. Vao, 17, of Kent, is scheduled to be arraigned March 3 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle. Chrisean Kaufman, 18, and Joshua Hawthorne, 17, both of Renton, also face first-degree murder charges. All three remained in custody Feb. 22, with Kaufman in the county jail and Vao and Hawthorne in juvenile detention. Bail is set at $2 million for each of them. Both minors are being charged as adults.

“The three acted in concert to rob victim Cyrus Mason of his AM-15 (Anderson Manufacturing) assault rifle, shot him multiple times on the swim dock of a popular public park and killed him in the process,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Terence Carlstrom in charging documents filed Feb. 17.

Hawthorne reportedly set up the deal on Sept. 16. The gun Vao brought to exchange fired at least four of the eight recorded shots. Kaufman ended up with the stolen AM-15, which has not been recovered.

About an hour and a half after the killing of Mason, Vao filmed a video of himself in the backseat of Kaufman’s car posing with the stolen AM-15 and flashing hand signs in the camera, according to charging papers. Two days later, Vao was soliciting Kaufman to commit an additional robbery to obtain two handguns. More than two months later, he was still in possession of the .22 Ruger used to kill Mason and had photographs on his phone of him posing with the Ruger, a revolver and a hand grenade.

Vao has prior juvenile misdemeanor convictions for second-degree vehicle prowl, fourth-degree assault, third-degree malicious mischief and attempted unlawful possession of a firearm, all in 2020.

Kirkland Police responded at about 8:21 p.m. on Sept. 16 to multiple 911 calls about a shooting at the Houghton Beach Park dock in the 5900 block of Lake Washington Boulevard. Officers found Mason with multiple gunshot wounds. Paramedics transported Mason to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he died a short time later.

Two juvenile witnesses told police that they had accompanied Mason to the park to perform a firearm transaction, trading an AM-15 assault rifle for a pistol and $500 cash. The transaction was set up on Snapchat. Mason carried the rifle in an ukulele case.

Detectives tracked down video surveillance with audio that captured a sedan dropping off two suspects five minutes prior to the shooting. The sedan parked and the sound of eight gunshots could be heard prior to two suspects getting in the vehicle which fled on Lakeview Drive NE.

Police used tips and interviews to find Hawthorne and connect him with the killing. Surveillance and vehicle registration records showed Kaufman as the driver of the sedan, a 2008 BMW 535. Detectives found a ukulele case in the car and $500 in fake bills.

Detectives eventually tracked Vao to an apartment at The Platform Apartments, across from Kent Station, where he lived with his parents. They used a search warrant and found in the apartment ammunition that matched the fire casings found on the Kirkland dock where Mason was killed. They also found a .22 Ruger handgun and later matched bullets from the handgun with a bullet found in Mason’s body and four of the fired casings recovered.

Police used social media communications, cellphone records, videos and witness interviews to tie the three teens to the shooting. The three reportedly went through the Jack in the Box drive-thru in Kent about 90 minutes after the shooting and just prior to dropping off Vao near Kent Station.

Vao told detectives he didn’t know Hawthorne or Kaufman and then said he didn’t want to talk to them anymore, so detectives ended the interview.