A witness said an unarmed Mexican immigrant fatally shot by police in Washington state fought with an officer, threw rocks and told officers to shoot him before they opened fire, documents released Wednesday show.
Witness Miguel Estrada, who was interviewed the day after the Feb. 10 shooting in Pasco, said he saw Antonio Zambrano-Montes throw rocks at officers then run away.
FOR THE RECORD
July 2, 10:42 a.m. A headline on an earlier version of this article indicated that the shooting took place in Spokane, Wash. It occurred in Pasco, Wash.
In the files released by authorities, Estrada said Zambrano-Montes screamed at officers: "If you are gonna shoot me, shoot me."
The death of Zambrano-Montes was captured on video and sparked months of protests in the agricultural center in eastern Washington.
A prosecutor is deciding whether the three officers who shot Zambrano-Montes should face criminal charges, a process likely to take months.
Another witness, Chris Pirtle, also told authorities that Zambrano-Montes dared officers to shoot.
"He kept on throwing the rocks, and the cop was telling him, 'Hey, put down the rock,'" Pirtle said.
Zambrano-Montes didn't comply, witnesses said.
“He just kept telling him, 'Shoot me, kill me,'" Pirtle said.
The newly released data included video from witnesses and raw audio files. In one audio file, witness Benjamin Patrick told investigators he yelled at officers after Zambrano-Montes was shot.
“Why did you just shoot him?” Patrick said he shouted. “He was trying to get away. What are you guys doing?”
Patrick later said during questioning he wanted to apologize to the officers for his outburst. He did not explain why.
Authorities say Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at passing motorists and police, and a stun gun failed to subdue him before he was shot.
Cellphone video showed three officers chasing Zambrano-Montes before shooting him as he turned around.
Franklin County prosecutor Shawn Sant issued a statement with the document release, saying he was still deciding whether the three officers would be charged with any crime.
One officer, Ryan Flanagan, has resigned in a move his lawyer said was unrelated to the shooting. The other two, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, remain on paid leave. They have not commented publicly on the shooting.
“The right decision is more important than a quick decision,” Sant said about the possibility of filing charges.
Patrick told investigators he saw Zambrano-Montes pick up what appeared to be a dirt clod and throw it at officers.
Patrick recalled two bursts of gunfire from the officers, even though Zambrano-Montes “wasn't acting very violent at that time.”
Just before the second round of shots, the officers yelled at Zambrano-Montes to put down the rock, he said.
“He looked like he was trying to put it down,” Patrick said.
An independent autopsy commissioned by attorney Charles Herrmann, who represents Zambrano-Montes' parents, showed the man suffered seven entrance wounds, including one to his buttocks and one to the back of his right arm. The other wounds were in the front.
The officers fired a total of 17 shots.
Patrick said he was upset by the shooting because it did not appear the officers were in danger. “I think they could have done something else,” Patrick said.
Zambrano-Montes appeared to be high or drunk, he said, noting that he recognized Zambrano-Montes as a regular in the neighborhood.
Attorney George Trejo Jr., who represents Zambrano-Montes' estranged wife and daughter, said the prosecutor's decision seemed simple.
“This is not a complex case, yet the decision on this case continues to be delayed,” Trejo said. “The decision to charge the officers either with first- or second-degree murder should be made now."
In other witness accounts, Mark Faith said he witnessed a policeman and a barefoot man fighting, then breaking apart. Zambrano-Montes then picked up some rocks or dirt clods and threw them.
Faith said Zambrano-Montes did not seem to respond to commands from officers.
"He looked like he was mental or he was on something," Faith said.
Zambrano-Montes was one of three unarmed Mexican nationals killed by U.S. police within a month, enraging the Mexican government.