Washington state community rallies after man's fatal police shooting

Washington state community rallies after man's fatal police shooting
Several hundred people gather in Pasco, Wash., in February for a protest against police brutality. (Sarah Gordon / Tri-City Herald)

Several hundred people marched through the streets of Pasco, Wash., on Saturday to protest the fatal police shooting of a 35-year-old Mexican national, a slaying that the president of Mexico denounced as "regrettable and outrageous."

Carrying signs and chanting, "Si se puede" (Yes we can) and "The people united will never be defeated," the crowd walked from a city park and gathered outside a bakery at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Lewis Street, where Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot by Pasco police officers.


Police say Zambrano-Montes threw rocks at officers, striking two of them, on Tuesday. In a statement released the next day, the department said Zambrano-Montes ignored the officers' commands to stop throwing rocks, one of which was about "softball size." Officers used a Taser before ultimately opening fire, police said. Zambrano-Montes was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting was captured on video and was the latest in a series of high-profile fatal encounters between the police and public in recent months in cities including Albuquerque; Ferguson, Mo.; and New York.

On the day after Zambrano-Montes was killed, a rookie police officer in New York was arraigned on second-degree manslaughter and other charges in the death of Akai Gurley, 28, who was shot while walking down the stairs of a Brooklyn housing project. Prosecutors say Officer Peter Liang disregarded what he had been taught at the police academy — that he should keep his finger off the trigger unless under threat.

In Pasco on Saturday, the march proceeded without incident. Streets had been blocked off to traffic so the protesters could march freely through the town of about 77,000 residents in southeastern Washington. There were no police officers in sight, said Russell Webster, 35, from Spokane.

"It's a very peaceful environment," he said in a telephone interview. "There's lots of kids, and it's just a spirit of community in the air."

The marchers tried to keep the protest focused "on what the family wants, which is a day of remembrance and calling attention to the injustice that has occurred," Webster said.

A day earlier, an attorney for Zambrano-Montes' widow and children filed a $25-million claim against the city, calling the officers' conduct an "unjustified use of deadly force."

The Mexican Consulate sent a letter of protest to the Pasco police chief, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto raised the issue at a gathering of the diplomatic corps in Mexico City.

"I have directed the secretary of foreign relations to support his family so they feel the backing and support of the government of Mexico, so they don't feel alone and so there is a close monitoring of the investigation into this regrettable and outrageous occurrence," Peña Nieto said.

A video posted Wednesday on YouTube appears to show the end of the incident. Zambrano-Montes exits a parking lot and runs through a crosswalk, followed by three officers. Toward the end of the 22-second video, Zambrano-Montes appears to briefly turn toward the officers, who then open fire.

"It truly depicts a man being gunned down by the police," said George Trejo, the attorney for Zambrano-Montes' family. "I've never seen anything like it."

Zambrano-Montes had lived in Washington state for at least 10 years and was a seasonal farm worker, Trejo said. He was separated from his wife, Teresa de Jesus Meraz Ruiz, and contributed financial support for his two teenage daughters. His wife and children live in Atwater, Calif.

Pasco Police Capt. Ken Roske told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that Zambrano-Montes had a criminal record. In January 2014, Zambrano-Montes was charged with assault on a Pasco police officer, Roske said.

The three officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. The department identified them as Officer Ryan Flanagan, a nine-year veteran; Officer Adam Wright, an eight-year veteran; and Officer Adrian Alaniz, a two-year veteran. The Tri-Cities Special Investigation Unit, which investigates officer-involved incidents in Benton and Franklin Counties, is looking into the case.


The march Saturday was the latest in a series of protests in the city since the shooting, said resident Hector Alamillo, 62.

"It's about the conduct of these officers and the taking of human life," he said in a phone interview Saturday. "It doesn't sit well with the city of Pasco."

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