EVERETT — Cesar Sanchez was very loving, his mother said.
“He was always hugging, kissing me and saying, ‘I love you, mom,’” Clementina Rubio Ruiz recalled, in an interview conducted in Spanish. “He always said, ‘Mom don’t worry. I’ve got you and you’ve got me.’”
Last week, Sanchez had started a new job, where he made $1 per hour more than before.
“That’s going to be better because I want to help the family, I want to help you mom,” his mother remembered him saying.
Sanchez, 17, who recently moved from Everett to Marysville, was the teenager killed in a shooting last weekend at Henry M. Jackson Park. On Friday afternoon, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office released his identity and confirmed the death was homicide. Detectives believed Sanchez and the shooter or shooters knew each other, but police have not released any other information about the relationship.
Witnesses heard “multiple rounds fired and multiple vehicles were said to have fled the scene prior to police arrival,” according to police. Officers found the teenage boy with gunshot wounds in the covered area of the park. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police had not released any information about a possible motive or a description of any suspects.
Sanchez had applied to get his high school diploma online so he could work full-time and help his mother, who had been out of work for three months. He planned to go to Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center to become an electrician.
On Black Friday, two days before the shooting, Sanchez came home from work to find his mother hanging up Christmas decorations.
“Mom, how much money do you want to buy more lights?” Sanchez asked.
“However much you want to give me, son,” Rubio Ruiz said.
“OK, tomorrow I’ll give you $100,” Sanchez promised.
The last time they spoke, on Saturday, he told her he was spending the night in Everett with a friend who would bring him to work on Sunday. She told him to take care. They both said I love you.
It was especially foggy at 2:30 a.m. Sunday, but the frosty ground was still visible from the first floor of the Riverdale apartment complex overlooking Jackson Park.
Gabriel McCollum heard the rapid gunfire.
“It was jarring, it was loud,” he said. “It makes me a bit jumpy. I’m only 20.”
On Tuesday afternoon, McCollum and Esther Key were bringing their mattress down the stairs. The couple has lived in their apartment for three years. They’re moving for financial reasons, but safety concerns are a close second. McCollum sighed.
“I’m glad we’re getting out in time,” he said.
Like in several other fatal shootings in Everett in the past year, gun violence traumatized the neighborhood. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Urban Health, the trauma that neighbors of gang-related murders suffer can cause emotional and bodily symptoms similar to residents in war. There’s the grief of loss, as well as “feelings of helplessness to prevent the next murder, secondary trauma, and the uncertainty (and inability to control) when such violence will happen next.”
Many neighbors enjoy walking their pets in Jackson Park, like Gery and Kerry Moreland. They go to the park with their dog Larry during the day, but don’t let their 8-year-old grandson play there. Kerry Moreland thinks more could be done.
“The neighborhood has been kind of pushed aside by the City Council. They don’t do enough to help,” she said. “We’re starting to get to a point where we’re thinking, ‘Maybe we’re going to move.’ We have to take care of our grandson, who’s in the back room. What if there was a shooting aimed at the house? Something could happen.”
The family slept through the gunshots, but saw a video on social media.
In the past five years, hundreds of new apartments have sprouted up around the park, named for Everett’s former U.S. senator, who lived on the other side of Broadway.
Rob Simonds and his white poodle have lived in the neighborhood for a decade. He figured the shooting was gang-related because of signs on a wall adjacent to the park that have since been covered.
“I worry that it’s going to escalate,” he said.
But he isn’t thinking about moving, he added.
A couple living in the Riverview Apartments, on the north side of the park, asked to remain anonymous. They were watching a show called “King the Land” when they heard four shots.
Thinking it was fireworks, they went to the window. The woman said she saw around six people “running and shooting,” when bullets hit their outside wall. She froze, then called 911.
Everett has seen 10 deadly shootings since the start of 2023, according to police. In three of those, the person killed was a teenager.
‘Where things happen’
Walking around 18th Street, you’ll hear neighbors echoing each other’s words. It’s an affordable area, with lots of families — and safety concerns rooted in drugs, gangs and homelessness.
Christa Johnson’s family has lived in the Riverdale apartments, south of the park, since February 2020. On Tuesday morning, Johnson chatted with her neighbors next to two picnic benches, some plants and many children’s toys. She described a tight-knit community that barbecues together. For a long time, she considered the park a perk.
“Living next to a park was originally this awesome thing that I was super happy about because I have kids,” she said. “Now it seems more like a negative because this is where things happen.”
Everett police spokesperson Ora Hamel said that since Jan. 1, 2020, officers have responded to 16 assault calls at Jackson Park, four of which involved guns. Of these four, two involved minors — counting the homicide on Sunday.
Johnson often hears fights in the park, despite frequent police patrols. While these happen mostly at night, in September she heard a gunshot during the day.
She believes safety issues are eroding the neighborhood, and many people she knows have moved out in the past year. Johnson, who grew up in East Oakland, California, wasn’t concerned with her tweens’ safety at first.
“I have to quickly teach my kids street smarts, because all of a sudden, they need them, which they didn’t,” she said.
The Johnsons’ monthly rent of $1,695, which hasn’t been raised since the move, is keeping them here. The day after the shooting, she got a notice from her landlords that she would need to start paying a fee for garbage and water.
Johnson and her neighbor, David Santos, used to wish more families with kids joined them. Now, they want to warn them. Santos has been trying to move out.
“This is definitely the push,” he said.
‘It was terrifying’
At a City Council meeting Wednesday night, Mayor Cassie Franklin said she too was awoken by “rounds and rounds of ammunition” early Sunday. “And it was terrifying.”
She outlined how police have been working to counter gun violence:
• Staffing up the police department, including the Violent Crime Unit.
• Partnering with the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to review the city’s practices and propose a plan to address violent crime.
• Creating a new violence prevention program that’s still in the works, as well as education campaigns.
• Hosting guns-for-gift cards exchanges that have “gotten hundreds of unwanted weapons out of our community.”
• Collaborating between city parks and police “to determine the best way to proactively patrol and provide safety measures in all our parks.”
This year has been one of Everett’s worst for youth violence in recent memory.
“Sadly this is not the first teenager we’ve lost to gun violence,” Franklin said. “We’re still mourning two others from earlier this year.”
On Sept. 8, Bryan Tamayo-Franco was waiting at a school bus stop in the 7700 block of Hardeson Road, according to court documents. Surveillance footage showed a black Kia slow down. Someone opened fire from the car.
Tamayo-Franco was shot 14 times, charging papers say. He died that day at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He was 15. He had just started classes at Kamiak High School.
Later that month, prosecutors charged two young men with premeditated first-degree murder. Investigators allege the pair planned to kill him as payback in a long-running gang feud, according to the charges.
On Oct. 13, Isaac Aney was driving an Acura around the 1200 block of East Casino Road, roughly 1,000 feet from Cascade High School, with three other passengers.
The group saw a teenager, 18, walking on the sidewalk, witnesses told detectives. After driving past him, Aney did a U-turn back toward the teen, prosecutors wrote. As the car turned, the teenager started shooting.
Aney died at the scene. He was also 18.
On Nov. 3, prosecutors charged the alleged shooter with second-degree murder. Investigators wrote he was a former friend of the group, but their relationship had recently devolved into a “volatile conflict.”
In an online fundraiser for Aney, his mother wrote that he carried the “biggest smile on his face.” As of Wednesday, the family had raised over $10,000.
Sanchez’s mother started an online fundraiser, too, to cover the funeral costs. She wrote that she didn’t just lose a son, but someone she could lean on.
“My son was young and had a full life ahead of him,” she wrote in Spanish. “I’m a single mother and one of my biggest supporters left in a way I wish on no one.”
As of Friday evening, the fundraiser had raised over $7,100.