Criticism increases in US city police shooting
PASCO, Washington (AP) — The fourth fatal police shooting since last summer in this agricultural city of 68,000 in Washington state is drawing criticism and scrutiny from as far away as Mexico.
Tuesday’s death of orchard worker Antonio Zambrano-Montes sparked protests after witnesses said he was running away when he was shot.
Police involved in the investigation of the shooting were pleading with the public to not make a tense situation any worse. They were gathering dash-cam video, evidence from the shooting, citizen video, police equipment and interviewing at least 40 witnesses.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department issued a statement Thursday condemning the shooting of Zambrano-Montes, who was raised in Mexico.
Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, whose office was conducting an autopsy on Zambrano-Montes, said he was considering convening an inquest jury to look into the death.
“We don’t want another Ferguson here in Pasco,” Blasdel told The Seattle Times, referred to the riots that followed the Aug. 9 shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and a grand jury’s decision not to indict.
Police say Zambrano-Montes’ threatening behavior led officers to open fire. The 35-year-old threw multiple rocks, hitting two officers, and refused to put down other stones. They say a stun gun failed to subdue him.
He had a run-in with Pasco police early last year, having been arrested for assault after throwing objects at officers and trying to grab an officer’s pistol, court records show.
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger has appealed for patience during an investigation by the Tri-City Special Investigation Unit and an internal review.
“This was really not a racial issue,” Metzger told KING-TV of Seattle. The chief met for two hours with the dead man’s relatives at a small bakery near where he died.
“Three police officers against one man throwing a rock?” an aunt, Angela Zambrano, said to The Times. “This was murder in cold blood.”
Some people who saw the shooting at a busy intersection videotaped the confrontation.
In one video recording, five “pops” are audible shortly after the video begins, and the man can be seen running away, across a street and down a sidewalk, pursued by three officers. As the officers draw closer to the running man, he stops, turns around and faces them. Multiple “pops” are heard and the man falls to the ground.
Protesters chanted “We want justice” in English and Spanish at Pasco City Hall on Wednesday, and they planned to demonstrate again Saturday.
One of the three officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting was a defendant in a federal civil-rights lawsuit the city settled in 2013 for $100,000, according to court records.