Pasco Police Shooting of Unarmed Hispanic Man Draws Comparisons to Ferguson

February 19, 2015 by No Comments

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The Zambrano family has a 30-year history in Pasco, Washington, a small harvesting town. They originally came to pick apples, but over time established roots and became part of the community. Their family has now grown to more than 50 members, living in small brightly-colored homes, some of which are lined with the same white picket fences that are so commonly associated with the American dream.

Now, however, the family is facing a nightmare.

Last week, a member of their family was killed by Pasco police, his death captured in a video that has since gone viral across the Internet. Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, is shown running from three officers. He turns to face them, bringing both hands upwards and then, is seen falling to the ground after being hit with a spray of bullets. Shortly before his death, he had been throwing rocks at passing vehicles and police officers.

Mr. Zambrano-Montes’ death has been the third killing by Pasco police officers since July. With the video garnering international attention and bringing waves of online comments criticizing the use deadly force against an unarmed man. Commenters are also noting the grim similarities between Mr. Zambrano Montes’ death and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

The three officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid leave. One officer, Adrian Alaniz, a Pasco native, is Hispanic.

The incident has drawn condemnation from Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and has spurred a number of investigations, including inquiries by a task force of local police departments, by the county coroner, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An official from the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Washington has assured community leaders that a thorough investigation will be completed, including a close review of police training in order to determine if that played a role in the shooting.

Of the 68,000 residents living in the city of Pasco, over half — 56% — are Hispanic. The public killing has deeply affected the immigrant community, spurring a number of protests that have drawn hundreds and has underscored the divide between the city’s increasing Latino population and its power structures — the city government and police force — the majority of which are white.

“They had him like a deer, hunting him,” said Maria Paniagua, 41, a Pasco resident and mother of six. “What happens when one of my kids gets in a jam and runs. Will they shoot him down?”

In the months leading up to his death, Mr. Zambrano-Montes was unemployed, and described as depressed and disoriented by his aunts and cousins. He had broken both of his wrists after falling from a ladder in an apple orchard. In January, he was trapped in house fire where he rented a room. The fire destroyed his belongings.

While the cause of the fire remains unknown, faulty smoke detectors may have been to blame. Smoke detectors should be replaced once every 10 years or in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The killing of Mr. Zambano-Montes is also drawing attention to previous accusations of excessive force used by Pasco officers. One officer involved in the shooting, Ryan Flanagan, was a defendant in a 2012 lawsuit after being accused of using excessive force in another incident.

Officer Flanagan was later exonerated by the police chief while the city settled the suit for $100,000.

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