When 12-year-old Mazzeo Sanchez woke up early Friday morning to a door closing, he thought it was his mom leaving for work.
He went back to sleep, but then he heard pacing and hard breathing, which is something his father is known to do.
“I stood up, because if it was my dad I was going to go talk to him,” he said.
But Mazzeo quickly saw that the pacing man wasn’t his dad — he was a suspected auto thief that local law enforcement had been chasing that morning.
The man, whom police later identified as 25-year-old Justin A. Burton of Vancouver, had barged into the Springfield Meadows apartment where Mazzeo, his three younger siblings and his mom’s friend and roommate Roger Duffey were all sleeping.
Mazzeo said that Burton started opening drawers and throwing papers and other items on the floor. Eventually, he found a knife.
That’s when Mazzeo grabbed his three siblings — his 8-year-old sister, and his two brothers, who are 6 and 5 — and ushered them into his mother’s bedroom. He locked eyes with Burton, who had dirt and cuts all over his face and looked to be on some kind of drug, Mazzeo said.
“He comes in the room and looks at all of us and walks toward me,” Mazzeo said. “I said, ‘No, no, no, I’m sorry I didn’t do anything.’ And he walks out.”
Mazzeo said that while he was scared, he was thinking of his siblings.
“I just tried to stay as calm as I could because if I overreacted, knowing the little kids, they would have probably flipped out and started running all over the place,” he said.
His mind was racing.
“I didn’t know if one of my little brothers or sisters was going to die or if I was going to die,” he said.
Mazzeo said he went into planning mode. “Am I going to have to go out the window?” he wondered. “Or drop the little kids out the window? Or am I going to have to fight him off or something?”
That’s when Duffey walked into the bedroom.
Duffey, 34, had fallen asleep playing video games in the living room. He, too, woke up to the wide-eyed, panting man. At first, he thought the man might be friends with Ashly Oliver-Edwards, the mother of the four kids, but she already had left for work.
When Duffey saw that the man had a knife in his hand, he went straight to find the kids. He asked Mazzeo if the man was a friend of their mother’s; Mazzeo said he wasn’t. Mazzeo asked if it was one of Duffey’s friends; Duffey answered that it wasn’t.
Fully aware that the man was a stranger in their home and armed with a knife, Duffey closed the bedroom door and held onto the handle (there are no locks on the doors). Duffey held tight, doing his best to keep him and the kids safe in the bedroom.
Burton then started kicking and banging on the outside of the door, Duffey said.
“I was just thinking, keep that door shut,” he said.
Then Duffey heard the radio traffic from an officer who was standing outside the bedroom window of their second-floor apartment. He overheard that an officer had seen a man in the living room but wasn’t sure if it was the suspect they were looking for. Knowing the man was away from the door, Duffey saw his chance. He went to the window and yelled at the officer, who told Duffey to put his hands up.
Duffey yelled back to the officer, “I’ve got four kids in here. Dude has a knife, get him out.”
“I hurried up and went back to the door and I held it because he kept coming back, kicking, trying to get back in the door,” Duffey said. “That’s all I could do is just keep that door still.”
A few minutes later, officers forced entry into the apartment and shot and killed Burton in the back bedroom.
“He didn’t say one word to anybody, even when the police came in,” Duffey said.
When officers collected Duffey and the four children, Duffey stood in the entryway to the other bedroom so the kids wouldn’t see the body.
He looked back and saw that the police had used a Taser on Burton, too, he said.
Once they were all outside, Duffey called Oliver-Edwards to tell her what had happened. Oliver-Edwards had left for work at 5:30 a.m., about an hour before the ordeal took place.
“I thought he was joking,” she said. “My kids normally call me to check in when they wake up at 7, and it wasn’t the call that I normally get.”
Once she got over the shock, regret set in.
“When I leave in the morning, I typically don’t lock the door,” she said. “I will never do that again.”
They later learned the details about Burton — how he allegedly got into a confrontation with the owner of a vehicle at 5804 N.E. 41st Circle, took the vehicle and crashed into a parked activities bus at Vancouver Pointe Senior Living, 4555 N.E. 66th Ave., a few blocks away, according to officials.
Burton then fled on foot, running through the lobby of the complex and into the Springfield Meadows complex, and eventually into the apartment of Oliver-Edwards and Duffey.
The apartment complex’s management company told Oliver-Edwards that it can’t offer her another unit, but would allow her to break the lease without penalty.
All six of them are now displaced, living at a Vancouver hotel room while they try to process what happened to them.
One of her children has a hard time sleeping, Oliver-Edwards said, because what happens plays over and over in his head. Another repeatedly says someone’s trying to kill them. Another gets sick when bedtime nears, which Oliver-Edwards thinks is from anxiety.
They’re looking for a new place to call home, but Oliver-Edwards said their funds are limited.
“It’s kind of hard to even focus on that main point when I’m worried about each day,” she said. “Right now, it’s just today and tomorrow and the next day.”
A donation page has been set up for the Oliver-Edwards family and those interested in donating can do so by visiting https://www.gofundme.com/3dxl4sw.