In the ten months following the May 4, 2022, shooting death of Cicero Sanchez, 31, on South 317th Street and 28th Avenue South in Federal Way involving a tactical team from the King County Sheriff’s Office, an update has been provided by the Valley Independent Investigative Team.
The team, comprised of seven South King County police departments, has excluded any King County Sheriff’s Office staff from participating in the investigation of the officer-involved shooting of Sanchez.
In an analysis of the 35 news releases as of Feb. 27 released from the Valley Independent Investigative Team, the team has provided little information to the case beyond a number of narrative details and the mention of awaiting testing results.
Cmdr. Shaun Feero of the Auburn Police Department, which is overseeing the Valley Independent Investigative Team’s investigation, did not immediately respond for comment regarding progress on the case, a timeline on the investigation, and the limited amount of information released to the public.
Timeline of new details
• May 4, 2022: The Valley Independent Investigative Team’s initial news release on May 4 regarding the day’s shooting reports the death of an undisclosed subject following a pursuit after the subject fled arrest. According to the team, deputies encountered an unspecified lethal threat when they attempted to take the subject into custody and responded with unspecified lethal force, with the subject dying at the scene after “lifesaving measures were attempted.”
• May 11, 2022: The Valley Independent Investigative Team’s second news release on May 11 identifies the deceased subject as Cicero Sanchez, a 31-year-old man. The team clarifies the lethal threat encountered by the King County Sheriff’s Office’s tactical team “involved a firearm.” No further details were provided regarding what is meant by the involvement of a firearm.
• May 18, 2022: In the third news release on May 18, mention of detectives awaiting an autopsy report from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office begins being included in the weekly press releases.
• May 26, 2022: In the fourth news release on May 26, mention of detectives also awaiting a toxicology report from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office begins being included in subsequent news releases.
• July 14, 2022: In the ninth news release, after four identical news releases to the May 26 news release, the Valley Independent Investigative Team’s July 14 news release states investigation has determined two deputies fired their service weapons during the shooting.
• Aug. 30, 2022: In the fourteenth news release, mention of detectives awaiting the autopsy report from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office disappears. No details regarding an autopsy report, or the completion of an autopsy report, are provided. Future releases only mention detectives awaiting a toxicology report from the medical examiner.
• Sept. 14, 2022: In the 16th news release, mention of detectives awaiting ballistics testing from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab begins being included in subsequent news releases.
• Nov. 17, 2022: In the 24th news release, six months after Sanchez’s death, the Valley Independent Investigative Team updates and confirms new narrative with details regarding the shooting. According to the release, detectives have determined Sanchez was the lone occupant in the vehicle at the time of the shooting and specifies the lethal threat encountered “involved Sanchez exiting the vehicle with a pistol in his hand.” The release also states two deputies fired at Sanchez. No further information regarding whether Sanchez aimed at or exchanged shots with officers is provided.
• Feb. 27, 2023: As of Feb. 27, the 25th through 35th news releases from the Valley Independent Investigative Team include identical information, with mentions of detectives awaiting a toxicology report and ballistics testing.
From May 26, 2022, to Feb. 27, 2023, mention of detectives “still awaiting” a toxicology report from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office have remained consistent in each news release for nine months.
A representative of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office declined to provide comment regarding Sanchez’s case and the average turnaround time for a toxicology report.
Mary Kellar of the Washington State Patrol Forensics Laboratory Services said in an email the average turnaround times for toxicology reports vary case by case, with priorities placed dependent upon imminent public safety risk, listing officer-involved shootings as an example.
“For an officer-involved shooting, that … is dependent on the circumstances and amount of evidence being examined and the types of testing needed to be completed,” Kellar said in the email.
The Valley Independent Investigative Team continues to release a weekly news release regarding the May 4 shooting death.