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Fatal Police Shooting of Mexican Immigrant in Washington Sparks Protests, International Condemnation

Activists have demanded Department of Justice officials investigate the killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was gunned down for throwing rocks at officers.

by VICE News
Feb 18 2015, 7:10pm

Photo via Flickr

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The fatal police shooting of a 35-year-old Mexican immigrant, who was gunned down for throwing rocks at officers earlier this month in Pasco, Washington, has prompted protests and condemnation in the US and abroad.

This week, local activist group Consejo Latino called on the Department of Justice to take over the official investigation into Antonio Zambrano-Montes's death on February 10.

"The victim was an unarmed civilian who was fleeing the police at the time he was gunned down," the group wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. "For the sake of the community, we believe it is imperative that the US Department of Justice assume control of the investigation immediately."

The incident reportedly began when police responded to a call that a man was throwing rocks at cars at an intersection, including one stone that was at least the size of a baseball, according to a statement by Paso Police Chief Bob Metzger.

Metzger said when officers arrived on the scene, they asked Zambrano-Montes to put down the rocks, but he did not respond to the requests. Officers then reportedly tasered him, a move he was unresponsive to. Police eventually opened fire on Zambrano-Montes. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

An independent tri-city special investigations unit has been tasked with investigating the shooting, while Officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright, and Adrian Alaniz have been placed on administrative pending the outcome, Metzger said.

Video of the shooting posted to YouTube last week prompted hundreds of Pasco residents to demonstrate in the streets over the weekend. Some protesters held signs with phrases like, "Shoot me on the leg but don't kill me!"

The cell phone footage appears to show Zambrano-Montes fleeing police before turning and raising his hands, which is when officers appear to shoot him multiple times.

Video apparently shows man with hands up shot dead by Washington cops. Read more here.

More than half of Pasco's population of 68,000 is Hispanic, and the latest police shooting — the third reported in Pasco since July — has reportedly further inflamed racial tensions between the city's mostly white officials and residents.

According to the New York Times, there are currently only 14 Hispanic officers serving on Pasco's 68-member police force, and residents had previously raised concerns about the language barrier between citizens and cops.

The outrage surrounding Zambrano-Montes's death has also spread far beyond Washington.

Last week, Mexico's congress called the shooting an "act that outrages all Mexicans." The country's President Enrique Peña Nieto also condemned the officers' "disproportionate use of lethal force" during the deadly incident.

"I have ordered the Foreign Secretariat to offer support to the family... and to carefully follow the investigation into this lamentable and outrageous act," Peña Nieto said.

The family of Zambrano-Montes has since filed a lawsuit against the city of Pasco for $25 million. The Franklin County coroner is also reportedly planning to launch an inquest into the shooting.

Zambrano-Montes, a father of two, came to Washington about a decade ago as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and did not speak English, family members told the Times. He had apparently been arrested for assaulting police at least once before in January, 2014. During that altercation, he reportedly attempted to take a cop's gun and also threw objects at officers.

In the letter from Consejo Latino, Chairman Colonel Felix Vargas wrote that Zambrano-Montes "may have suffered from mental illness and some substance abuse."

A family member told local station KNDO/KNDU that Zambrano-Montes had recently been depressed after breaking both wrists in an accident at work.

Photo via Flickr