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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Nothing but questions in killing of Spokane man last fall

Story By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Zachary Lamb was living his dream.

He had a job he liked and had recently gotten a promotion. He and his fiancée were planning a wedding and had just learned they were expecting a baby.

It all ended abruptly when he was gunned down in the street outside his apartment near 10th Avenue and Elm Street just before midnight Nov. 7 as his fiancée sat in their car.

Police have little evidence, few clues and no suspects, despite months of investigation.

“We’ve got nothing,” Spokane police Major Crimes Lt. Steve Wohl said.

Lamb’s shooting is the only homicide in Spokane County in 2014 in which a suspect has not been identified.

Police also don’t have a motive for the crime, though Lamb’s fiancée said they had been followed home from a night out with friends at Borracho Tacos and Tequileria on Division Street in downtown Spokane. Investigators found no indication that Lamb had enemies or was involved in illegal activities, Wohl said.

Lamb’s mother, Julie Knapp, has a simple message for her son’s killer.

“Turn yourself in,” she said. “Do the right thing. You would want someone to do that if it were your child.”

Police talked to patrons and employees at Borracho, who reported that nothing unusual happened while Lamb and his friends were there. They also looked at video surveillance footage to see if they could find evidence of anyone following the couple.

“We see him driving fast, but we don’t see anyone following them,” Wohl said.

Lamb’s fiancée told police the incident may be road-rage related. Lamb’s friend and co-worker, John McLachlan, said the car Lamb was driving had been having mechanical problems. Its engine would race intermittently, causing the car to suddenly speed up and then slow down.

Knapp said something must have happened on the way home.

“He didn’t drive straight home,” she said. “He drove around trying to get rid of this person and thought he had.”

Whatever the cause, a man pulled up behind the couple when they arrived home. He yelled expletives and called him the N-word, as if he was challenging Lamb to a fight, Wohl said. After several minutes, Lamb got out of his car. He was shot twice in the chest as he reached the trunk of his car before he had a chance to say a word.

The darkness limited the description given by witnesses. The man is described as white and in his 40s with a gravelly voice and a beard. He was wearing a baseball cap. He was driving a dark-colored, boxy SUV with a roof rack that extended over the windshield.

The only evidence that police have are three .32-caliber shell casings found at the scene and the two bullets that hit Lamb.

“It’s really a bizarre one,” Wohl said. “It makes it tough. We’re turning over every stone we have.”

Lamb, 26, grew up in Washington in North Bend and Cle Elum. He spent time in Louisiana and Seattle before moving to Spokane early in 2013. Soon after he arrived, he got a job as a dishwasher at the Yards Bruncheon restaurant and already had worked his way up to doing prep work like making sauces and chopping vegetables, Yards Bruncheon owner Adam Hegsted said.

Lamb was a nice person, thoughtful of others and a hard worker, Hegsted said.

“His laugh was very infectious,” he said. “He was always smiling.”

He was eager to do more at work and loved to cook, a skill that can be traced to the years his family owned a restaurant in Cle Elum, where Lamb loved to help out. “He was working his way up,” Hegsted said. “I think he found something he liked to do.”

McLachlan is the lead prep cook and worked closely with Lamb. While he was fun and easygoing, McLachlan said, it would be like Lamb to not back down if he felt he was being challenged to a fight.

“He thought he was invincible,” he said.

Everyone police talked to about Lamb had nothing but good things to say about him, Wohl said.

“Everybody paints him as a wonderful guy who didn’t have problems with anybody,” he said.

Lamb could walk into a room full of strangers and come out with 10 new friends, Knapp said.

“He would literally give you the shirt off his back and his last dime if you needed it,” she said. “I can’t think of anybody he didn’t like.”

While his mother and stepfather still live near Cheney, Lamb’s fiancée has moved out of the area to be near her family. She has declined requests for interviews, and Knapp said she is afraid the man who killed Lamb may come after her because she is a witness. The memories were also too painful for her to bear.

Knapp said she and her son’s fiancée are still in touch but haven’t talked in detail about the night he died.

“My job is just to love her and be her family since he can’t,” she said. “I did find out that the last thing he said to her before he left the car was that he loved her and she said it back.”

Lamb’s fiancée sends Knapp and her husband ultrasound pictures of their grandchild. Looking at the pictures is bittersweet and makes them cry, Knapp said. The sex of the baby due in early July is a mystery.

“He did not want to know, and she’s going to honor that,” Knapp said.

Like his fiancée, his parents have struggled to cope with his loss. Some of his former co-workers also are struggling, Hegsted said.

“We’re all a pretty close crew,” Hegsted said. “When we lose someone, it’s part of the family. It’s hard on the employees. It’s still unresolved, so that doesn’t help either.”

Wohl said a small group of investigators is continuing to work on the case and is tracking down every lead they get, but the random nature of the crime is making the investigation difficult.

“Most of the time there’s a relationship,” he said. “There’s more evidence. It’s not the norm to not solve them.” The lieutenant added, however, “We never let go.”

Knapp said she believes Major Crimes investigators are doing all they can to solve her son’s homicide. She also hopes that the recent offer of a reward for information in the case may generate some new leads.

“Somebody out there does know something,” she said. “In some ways, knowing he’s out there makes it more difficult. It worries me that it will happen to some other family. No family should have to go through this.”