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No Charges Filed Against Auburn Officer who Shot, Killed EJ Strickland


Prosecutors have determined there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed in the May 2019 fatal shooting of Enosa (EJ) Strickland Jr. by an Auburn Police Officer. (pdf)

May 20, 2019

A white male with short brown hair stands against a wall looking forward. He wears an Auburn Police Uniform with the name patch "K Lyman." His firearm is not in its holster and there is a
APD Officer K Lyman | Auburn Examiner file photo

Just before 1:00 am on May 20, 2019, two Auburn police officers were dispatched to the Palermo apartment complex for a domestic disturbance. Determining no crime had been committed, Strickland was free to leave. However, the officers determined Strickland was not safe to drive due to likely intoxication.


According to the officers’ statements, a physical altercation occurred while waiting for Strickland’s ride. Strickland allegedly obtained a knife belonging to one of the officers and ignored commands to drop it. Statements reflect Strickland continued to be combative and not respond to warnings, leading to Officer Kenneth Lyman fatally shooting him.

From Pierce to Snohomish County

The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (PCPAO) received the completed Valley (independent)* Investigation Team investigation in August 2019. Upon discovering information from a compelled statement was included in the information provided to the PCPAO, the office asked Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney (SCPA), Adam Cornell, to review the case.

“After Strickland’s death, the then-chief of Auburn P.D. ordered the two involved officers to submit to an interview with detectives from the Valley Investigative Team (VIT) as part of the criminal investigation,” said PCPAO Public Information Officer Adam Faber. “Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent (Garrity v. New Jersey), any information that is gleaned from compelled statements cannot be used by prosecutors in a criminal trial, and could even compromise a charging decision.”

Two Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys were tasked with “independently cleansing the relevant investigative materials to remove all Garrity-protected material and any derivative content that might have flowed from the protected statements,” states the SCPAO memo.


SCPA Cornell and Chief Criminal Deputy Matthew Baldock separately reviewed the investigative material to discern the lawfulness of Lyman’s actions. Outside subject matter experts and materials were consulted to assist in their review.

The Decision

At the completion of the review, Cornell states he “concluded that when applying the facts in this case to law applicable in Washington, there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.” The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s memo details the applicable law and relevant facts relied upon to make the decision to decline the case for prosecution.

A young man in a green graduation robe with a striped tie and bright yellow lei smiles at the camera
Enosa (EJ) Strickland, Jr. | courtesy photo, Strickland Family

“I am mindful that the investigative record makes it clear Enosa Strickland, Jr. was well-loved by his family and friends who knew him to be a kind, respectful, and thoughtful young man,” notes Cornell. “I am also aware that for those who knew and cared about Mr. Strickland, Jr., the circumstances surrounding his death are as confounding as his death is devastatingly sad. And while it is important for all of us to recognize the pain and grief caused by Mr. Strickland, Jr.’s unfortunate passing, my ethical obligation is to only pursue a prosecution that I believe can be proven to a trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt, and it can neither acquiesce to, nor be influenced by, our sympathies.”


Both Cornell and Baldock met with the Strickland family Monday, February 1 to “[explain] their review and decision, and answered questions,” Faber said.

Stephen Bulzomi, attorney for the Strickland family, relayed the family is not ready to comment on the prosecutor’s decision at this time. He was able to share that the family is disappointed and exploring further options.

When asked for comment, the City of Auburn stated they “defer to the investigation completed by the Valley Independent Investigation Team and the decision of the Snohomish County Prosecutor.”

Strickland was the first of three fatal shootings by an Auburn police officer in a 19-month period. Officer Jeff Nelson has been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 2019 death of Jesse Sarey. The VIIT is wrapping up its investigation into the December fatal shooting of Nicholas Ellingson by an Auburn officer.  A third fatal shooting in Auburn happened in September, involving a King County Sheriff’s Deputy.


To write this article the Auburn Examiner used the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s memorandum, the V(I)IT investigation file, communication with Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office (PIO Adam Faber), communication with Strickland family attorney Stephen Bulzomi, and

*During this investigation what is now called Valley Independent Investigation Team was called Valley Investigation Team. Same team, new name.

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