What happened on May 4, 2022, that led to the shooting death of 31-year-old Cicero Sanchez during his arrest in Federal Way? An autopsy report from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office reveals new details regarding Sanchez’s death.
King County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped Sanchez near South 317th Street and 28th Avenue South by a freeway ramp in an attempt to arrest him after a pursuit. The Valley Independent Investigative Team reported that deputies encountered an unspecified lethal threat when they tried to take the subject into custody, and responded with unspecified lethal force, with the subject dying at the scene after “lifesaving measures were attempted.”
Deputies shot Sanchez four times in the chest and torso, including once in the back.
Two gunshots struck Sanchez in the front right chest. One traveled front-to-back downward through his right lung and exiting the right side of his back. A second traveled front-to-back downward through his diaphragm, liver, right kidney and exiting the right side of his back.
Another gunshot struck him in the side of his right chest, traveling downward through his diaphragm, liver, bowel and exiting his left abdominal wall.
One gunshot struck Cicero in the left side of the back — traveling back-to-front upward, fracturing his lower spinal cord, and through his left kidney, stomach, liver, diaphragm and exiting the left side of his chest, fracturing his fifth rib.
King County medical examiners also documented additional injuries including abrasions on the right side of the nose, left wrist, elbows, right forearm and right calf.
The autopsy report shows evidence of medical therapy performed on Sanchez at the scene, including wound dressing, thoracostomy tubes, intubation, defibrillator pads and the administration of an intravascular catheter.
Associate medical examiner Amanda Maskovyak conducted Sanchez’s autopsy, with chief medical examiner Richard Harruff approving her work.
“We will not be explaining autopsy results to the public until the investigation is complete. At this point it is not complete,” said Cmdr. Shaun Feero of the Auburn Police Department, overseeing the Valley Independent Investigative Team’s investigation of Sanchez’s death.
A Nov. 17, 2022, press release from the Auburn Police Department specified that deputies encountered a lethal threat while attempting to take Cicero Sanchez into custody, involving “Sanchez exiting the vehicle with a pistol in his hand.”
Pictures of the scene of Cicero Sanchez’s death obtained by the Auburn Reporter show a King County Sheriff’s Deputy patrol vehicle having crashed into the side of Cicero Sanchez’s vehicle, pinning the driver’s door shut. The photo shows the driver’s side window half rolled up.
Cmdr. Ferro declined to provide information regarding the manner in which Cicero exited the vehicle.
Cristy Sanchez remembers law enforcement laughing and eating lunch as she waited — panicking and shaking — at the scene of her brother’s death.
She said she waited for hours, and said multiple officers ignored and declined to speak with her as she asked whether it was her brother who had been shot at the scene. They received a family liaison, Douglas Faini of the Auburn Police Department, as their point of contact with police.
Cristy Sanchez said Faini called her as she was leaving the scene. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office had verified it was her brother through DNA testing. The family didn’t see his body until the hearse took him to the funeral home, she said.
Cristy Sanchez began questioning Faini about what happened.
“Can you explain how … he got out of the car with a gun in his hand?” Cristy Sanchez emailed Faini on Nov. 18, 2022.
“He climbed out the open driver door window with the gun,” Faini responded in an email.
Cristy Sanchez said she doesn’t believe the liaison’s story because pictures of the scene show the driver’s door window partially rolled up. Faini quit acting as the Sanchez family liaison without notice, Cristy Sanchez said.
The family received a new liaison that she said she hasn’t spoken with yet.
“One of the family contacts has been reassigned and a new family contact has been provided,” Cmdr. Feero said.
Cristy Sanchez said the Auburn Police Department hasn’t provided the Sanchez family with anything more than the same weekly press releases the department releases to the public.
“We want to know the truth — the real story,” Cristy Sanchez said. “They are dragging this investigation out. … They keep saying the same old thing over and over.”
Feero said the Auburn Police Department has released information as it becomes available that does not negatively impact or influence the outcome of the investigation. Feero said the department hasn’t withheld any information in regards to the investigation of his death. Weekly press releases have been authored and provided to the family liaison and community representatives prior to release, Feero said.
The Sanchez family said they want answers.
“We haven’t had any real answers and we are approaching a year since his murder,” the Sanchez family said in a statement provided to the Auburn Reporter.
Carlos Sanchez, Cicero’s brother, said nothing justifies the shooting of his brother.
“Our brother deserved a chance at rehabilitation. He did not deserve to be shot dead in the street. He wasn’t running around hurting people,” said Carlos Sanchez.
“This is what takes place in our society when law enforcement has the power to decide life or death,” the Sanchez family statement reads.
Cristy Sanchez expressed discontent that the police did not provide any support services for the trauma of her brother’s shooting.
“We are most upset with the lack of support we have received from the department (and) the refusal to treat us with the empathy we deserve,” the Sanchez family statement reads. “This is a failure by the people that are in place to protect us.”
The Valley Independent Investigative Team initially said deputies “encountered a lethal threat and responded with lethal force.” The investigators — comprised of other law enforcement officers in the region — stated the lethal threat encountered by the King County Sheriff’s Office tactical team involved a firearm in their encounter with Sanchez. Investigators did not provide any details as to who was holding the firearm, where the firearm was located or if deputies had been shot at. Court records show Sanchez has prior criminal charges for stealing vehicles and eluding police.
Spokespeople for Federal Way and Auburn police departments said there is no body worn camera footage of the incident.
Federal Way officers — who began wearing body cameras in early 2022 — assisted by providing scene security at the library and near the area of the freeway ramp where the shooting occurred, according to the Federal Way Mirror. However, Federal Way officers had no direct involvement with the King County shooting and the body worn camera footage obtained by officers is of no evidentiary value to the case.
Questions remain regarding why law enforcement were pursuing Cicero on May 4, 2022. As of now, the King County Sheriff’s Office will not release any information regarding potential charges facing Cicero, arrest warrants, police records or an affidavit of probable cause due to the ongoing Valley Independent Investigative Team investigation.
The King County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement provided to the Auburn Reporter that they hope to have an update by May 19, 2023, on whether they might be able to release that information, though they have no guarantees anything will be released at all.
“We have a new inquiry in to check the status to determine what, if anything, may be released,” the sheriff’s office statement reads.
The Valley Independent Investigative Team is a seven-agency investigative unit made of police departments from Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, the Port of Seattle, Tukwila and Renton tasked with investigating officer-involved shootings.