SPOKANE, Wash. - It's been three months now since a man was shot to death on the South Hill. Who killed Zach Lamb and why remains a mystery but Spokane Major Crimes detectives think the public holds the key to solving this case.
The murder of 26-year-old Zachary Lamb could be a hate crime – which is why the FBI has agents that have joined the investigation – but it could also be an extreme case of road rage. Spokane Police don't know, but they do know the murder suspect didn't hesitate to kill Lamb.
The investigation of Lamb's killing stands in stark contracts to most homicides, which Spokane detectives often solve in a matter of hours, not days.
"We have been very fortunate to have a very high clearance rate," Spokane Police Lieutenant Steve Wohl said.
Unfortunately Lamb's killing is very different. In most of Spokane's murders the killer and the victim knew each other. In his case he may have been shot by a stranger.
"That's what is making it difficult for us is we don't have a way to tie them together and find a clue to take us down the right path, yet," Wohl said.
It's easy to make enemies if you're a drug dealer or gang banger but police don't believe Lamb was either.
"He was just such a friendly, happy soul," Lamb's mom, Julie Knapp, said. "Happy go lucky, didn't seem like he had a care in the world, even when he was upset about something."
Knapp is still shocked and scared about what happened to her son back on November 7.
"We had a knock on our door, in the middle of the night, the worst thing in the world. All I heard was police," she recalled.
Spokane police told her someone had gunned down her son in the street just outside his 10th Avenue apartment. At the time, the only witness to the shooting was Lamb's fiancé, who said someone had been following the couple after they left Borracho's at Division and Main.
In order to figure out why someone was following Lamb, Spokane police recreated the couple's evening. Detectives interviewed the restaurant's staff and customers. Borracho's handed over hours of its surveillance video.
"It was uneventful. He doesn't have a past that is causing us concern. He hasn't had any beefs with people recently," Wohl said.
Lamb and his fiancé left Borracho's about 11:30 p.m. When they got to about 2nd and Maple he realized he was being followed and decided against driving straight to their apartment.
"He drove down a side street and pulled over to the side of the road hoping that this person would go by or be unconcerned with them and leave them alone," Wohl explained.
Lamb's hopes of deescalating the situation didn't work. In fact it escalated when the couple parked just a few steps from their front door. The man called him out, several times, using profanities to try and provoke him to come out and fight. Lamb kept his cool until the suspect started using racial epithets.
"There were some things that were said that made him eventually get out of the car, maybe to protect his fiancé or girlfriend, and went to the back of the car where unfortunately he was shot," Wohl said.
The only physical evidence police found at the scene were three shell casings studied at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. The sheriff's helicopter Air 1 was called to the scene to look for the gunman's getaway car, possibly an older, dark colored Ford Explorer with a very unique roof rack.
"This was an SUV-type vehicle and these racks extended beyond the windshield like made for carrying items that are long in nature," Wohl said.
With that type of extended rack, police think their shooter might be in construction. The driver was described as a white male in his 40s with scruffy facial hair wearing a baseball cap and, according to Wohl, "when he was yelling at Mr. Lamb inside the vehicle, the fiancé told us it was kinda of a gruff voice, like an angry type, gruff lower tone voice."
Police have pretty much ruled out the shooting happened because of bad blood between Lamb and a romantic or professional rival. In fact, he had just told his mother he was about to become a father, the couple's baby due July 1.
"We are thrilled, we are thrilled. Obviously it makes it bittersweet just a little, tiny bit of him left it makes it less painful," Knapp said.
Pain made worse by knowing her son's killer is still out there.
Detectives say they still work this case every day but need new leads to follow.
"We still want those tips to come in; if you saw something that night, you think you heard something from somebody, if there is any piece of information, however minute, we still want that to come in because we want to follow up on that," Wohl said.
Major Crimes detectives want to bring closure to Lamb's family but there's a new reason you might want to help with this case. Crime Stoppers of the Inland Northwest now offering up to $1,000 for information that leads to the suspect's arrest.
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