Her brother had been acting strangely ever since he was rear-ended in a car crash a week earlier.
So when Amanda Haynes heard he was allegedly violent with his girlfriend, she and her sister went straight to Joshua Sarrett’s Auburn home Saturday to check on his stability.
They were trying to defuse the situation, but Sarrett, 32, was drunk — he had struggled with alcoholism and depression for years after the deaths of close friends, Haynes said.
Then the sisters learned he had a gun. Haynes said it was time for her and her sister to leave, and headed out the front door. She was planning to call the police, she said, but saw a King County sheriff’s deputy driving down the street and decided to wave him down.
“Worst-case scenario I thought he would spend the night in jail for domestic abuse,” Haynes said Sunday.
Less than a minute later, her brother was lying dead in his front yard.
A team of investigators are now poring over evidence after the deputy shot Sarrett, but they have released few details. Interviews with Sarrett’s family members and police recordings show a volatile situation that turned deadly.
Unarmed at the final moments
The deputy, who has not yet been named by the department, was at a nearby Brown Bear car wash. A statement by the department said someone approached the deputy and told him “a male was seen firing a gun in the backyard of a house nearby.”
The officer drove around the corner and pulled up to the one-story house on the 500 block of Eighth Street Southeast around 3 p.m.
“I told him, Josh is drunk and he has a gun in his pocket,” Haynes said. “And we were there because we were told he was beating his girlfriend.”
The deputy radioed a dispatcher to say he spotted Joshua on the front porch and he has a “heavy right front pocket. Likely to be a firearm in there,” according to a recording of police radio traffic.
The next moments were chaotic. At one point Sarrett’s girlfriend and his dog were in front of the house, and he was telling them both to get back inside. The dog got loose. Sarret’s girlfriend went inside, then came back out, Haynes said. Sarrett slammed the front door and then reemerged.
When the deputy told him to sit down on the porch steps, Sarrett told the officer he didn’t have a warrant and he didn’t have to comply, said Haynes, who was standing behind the police vehicle.
After more commotion, Sarrett eventually stepped down into the front lawn. Sarrett held his hands in the air, and the deputy told him not to touch his pocket, Haynes said. But he lowered his hand — she thinks he either wanted to pull up his sagging shorts, or to show the deputy he had no gun.
That’s when the officer fired. He shot Sarrett in the chest, and he died at the scene.
Deputies found no gun on Sarrett, Haynes said. She believes he put it down when he went back inside the house.
“He was having some issues and was a little angry,” said his father, Mark Sarrett. “He wasn’t armed. I don’t know why the cops shot him.”
Sarrett had two children, ages 3 and 7, who live with their mother in Centralia. A Lego collector and trader, he would build elaborate sets for his and Haynes’ children.
“He loved his kids. He was this amazing person when he was sober, but he had these demons he was battling with,” Haynes said. “I was just trying to do what I thought was right.”
Sarrett grew up in Auburn with his two sisters and a brother. He loved to play Magic: The Gathering, a collectible card game. He also polished uncut gemstones, a hobby he picked up from his great grandfather.
For six years he worked at Wizards of the Coast, the Renton gaming company that produces the Magic card game, most recently as a senior facilities coordinator, according to his LinkedIn profile.
His father said he was laid off in January, and had been working through a court battle over custody of his daughters.
“He moved up and got raises, had two kids, bought a house,” his father said. “Things fell apart. He was trying to work through it.”
The Valley Independent Investigative Team — a multiagency unit of detectives and crime-scene technicians from the Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Tukwila, Renton and Port of Seattle police departments — is conducting the investigation into the shooting.
The deputy was placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.