PASCO, Wash. — The family of a Mexican national fatally shot by police in Pasco, Washington, has filed a $25 million claim against the city alleging that three officers killed the unarmed man “execution style.”
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot by police Tuesday after he allegedly hurled rocks at vehicles and Pasco officers.
The city and the police department weren’t commenting on the claim, Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said Saturday.
The case is attracting attention because a video posted on YouTube shows Zambrano running across a street with police in pursuit before he was fatally shot. The shooting has sparked local protests and anger at what some say is another example of police brutality and excessive force against an unarmed man who is a minority.
Zambrano-Montes’ widow, Teresa De Jesus Meraz Ruiz, 32, and the couple’s two minor daughters accused three Pasco officers in “the murder” of Zambrano-Montes, according to the claim filed Friday.
One officer, Ryan Flanagan, “has a prior history of official misconduct in civil rights matters,” the claim alleges. The other two officers are Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, the claim said.
The three officers are on paid administrative leave; Zabell said the city wouldn’t comment on the accusations against them.
Flanagan is a nine-year veteran; Wright, a firearms instructor with eight years’ experience; and Alaniz, an officer with two years on the job, officials said.
Mexican diplomat concerned
Meanwhile, the Mexican consul in Seattle, Eduardo Baca, wrote a letter Thursday to Police Chief Robert Metzger expressing “deep concern over the unwarranted use of lethal force against an unarmed Mexican national by police officers.”
Baca asked for a thorough investigation “in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs provision, to which both Mexico and the United States are parties.”
On Friday, Metzger wrote a letter to Baca stating that the Pasco department and other law agencies are investigating “the circumstances surrounding the incident.”
When a Tri-City Special Investigations Unit completes its inquiry, the report will be forwarded to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Metzger wrote.
Police have alleged that Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks at cars and trucks when he was confronted by officers. Officers attempted “voice commands and low level force,” and used a Taser, police said, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
After two officers were struck with rocks — at least one of them as large as a softball — police said the officers resorted to deadly force.
Didn’t understand English
Zambrano-Montes’s family have told reporters he wouldn’t have been able to understand the commands.
“He didn’t understand English and they were talking to him in English,” one cousin said. “Why not get a Hispanic officer?”
The incident began, according to the claim, on Tuesday about 5 p.m. when Zambrano-Montes was suspected of throwing rocks.
A very brief encounter occurred between Zambrano-Montes and police, “during which the officers may have tried to taser” him, the claim said.
Zambrano-Montes separated from the officer and walked away from them in the crosswalk, the claim said.
“He had his back to the officers,” the claim said. “At this point, the officers started shooting at Mr. Zambrano-Montes.
“After Mr. Zambrano-Montes reached the other side of the street and got on the sidewalk, he continued to walk away from the officers with his hands out where they could be seen, again showing that he had no knife, no gun or nothing else in his hands that would cause a threat to the three officers who were then lined up on the sidewalk behind … Antonio Zambrano-Montes,” the claim alleges.
“As Mr. Zambrano-Montes turned toward the officers, all three officers fired multiple rounds, killing Antonio Zambrano-Montes on the sidewalk in front of numerous businesses,” the claim alleges.
“At the time that he was shot and killed, execution style, by the three officers named herein, in broad daylight, and with no knife or firearm in his hands, and for the conduct of throwing rocks at an earlier time, Mr. Zambrano-Montes posed no danger to the three officers, such that they were justified in the use of deadly force…” the claim said.
The claim accuses the police of assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful death and civil rights violations.
The claim said the incident was the third fatal shooting by a Pasco officer “in a very short period of time,” and accused the city of “retaining officers who had a proven history of violation of civil rights against the Latino/Hispanic community” and “allowing and fostering overt racial (animus) towards the Hispanic/Latino community within the Pasco Police Department.”
Zambrano-Montes’s shooting death was the fourth fatal officer-involved shooting in Pasco in the past seven months, said city spokesman Jon Funfar. One of those shootings, however, involved a deputy from Benton County, although Pasco is in Franklin County, Funfar said. According to the Tri-City Herald, officers were cleared in the other three shootings.
The coroner said his office would conduct a separate inquest in the Zambrano-Montes case with six community members, once the law enforcement investigation is complete.
The family’s attorney, George Trejo, said supporters were scheduled to march Saturday from a park to City Hall and the police department.
On Wednesday, about 100 protesters marched outside Pasco City Hall, with some chanting “It was only a rock,” KEPR reported.
The shooting comes in a period of strained police-community relations following the police-involved deaths last summer of Eric Garner, 43, on Staten Island in New York and Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s July 17 death a homicide due to compression of his neck and chest when he was taken down by an officer using a chokehold. His death sparked street protests, a review of police procedures and calls for a federal civil rights investigation. A grand jury declined to prosecute Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the case.
A few weeks later, Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown after an altercation in the street.
The death of Brown, who was unarmed, thrust into the forefront the issue of law enforcement’s use of deadly force. A grand jury declined to prosecute Wilson, a decision that led to national demonstrations.