Man connected to shooting death avoids charges

Robert Zuchowski plays with his 2-year-old daughter, Hailie. A good father, son and friend, Zuchowski was shot and killed in an Auburn alley on April 8. - Courtesy
Robert Zuchowski plays with his 2-year-old daughter, Hailie. A good father, son and friend, Zuchowski was shot and killed in an Auburn alley on April 8.
— image credit: Courtesy

King County prosecutors have decided not to charge a 19-year-old Lake Tapps man in connection with the shooting death of a 29-year-old man in an Auburn alley April 8.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office, said Friday that prosecutors believed they could not prove that the man hadn't acted in self-defense when he shot Robert Zuchowski.

"We have completed our review, and we've determined that no criminal charges can be filed," Donohoe said. "We have been looking at the issue of self-defense in this case, and under state law, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person did not act in self-defense, and we don't believe we can overcome that in this case."

Robert Gary Ward III pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of felony harassment May 20 in King County Superior Court, and on June 5 was sentenced to three months. With credit for 41 days served, Ward has completed his sentence and is no longer in custody.

Donohoe said that should any new evidence come to light, prosecutors would be willing to look at it and reevaluate the decision not to file charges.

According to court records, at 11 a.m. April 8, Zuchowski was in a car with his little brother, Ryan, 20, and his little brother’s girlfriend when he saw a stranger, a 6-foot-four-inch tall man with short hair and a dark jacket, walking through his mother’s neighborhood. The man, whom he did not know, flashed some sort of gang sign.

According to court records, Zuchowski jumped from the car and gave chase. The man pulled out a pistol and fired from about 15 feet away, striking Zuchowski once in the chest, killing him. He fired at Zuchowski's little brother, too, but missed and fled west down the alley.

An Auburn police officer stopped the shooter four minutes later some four blocks west and slightly north of the scene. Zuchowski's brother positively identified the man as the person who had shot his brother.

Police recovered seven .25-caliber shell casings and a .25-caliber Beretta pistol in the alley west of the shooting scene. Investigation showed the gun was stolen.

Family members told the Auburn Reporter in May that Zuchowski was extremely protective of his family and especially his mother, who lives a block south of the shooting scene. That fear for his family might have compelled him to leap from the car, members said.

The Auburn Reporter was unable to reach family members for comment.

Zuchowski was survived by his mother, Suzanne Waltman, his fiance, Casey Reichmand, his 2-year-old daughter, Hailie, his 9-year-old stepson, Hector, sisters, 23, 22 and 10, his 20-year-old brother, and a 24-year-old half-brother in Arizona.

According to court records related to the harassment charge, Ward is associated with the "Pee Wee Surenos" gang. That charge related to an incident near Cascade Middle School eight days before the fatal shooting. Three kids reported that an unknown male in his teens had displayed a firearm and threatened them with it before fleeing in a car.

"The whole thing was weird," witnesses told police, "because he (the driver) dressed like a Mexican and sounded like a Mexican, but he was this white guy, ya know?"

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