Three Washington state police officers will not face criminal charges despite firing 17 shots that killed an immigrant farmworker from Mexico who had allegedly threw rocks at them back in February.
Video footage of the incident shows 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes fleeing from three Pasco police officers across a busy intersection on foot. The man turns and faces the cops and is flailing his arms in front of him when the cops open fire.
On Wednesday, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant stated that he did not believe he could prove the officers acted with malice or without good faith, and would not be seeking criminal charges.
“The officers used legal force to prevent injuries to themselves and others,” Sant said. “Certainly there is no evidence of malice.”
“I believe that a unanimous jury would not find the presence of malice or absence of good faith in this case.”
— #YourLocalABC (@KAPPKVEW) September 9, 2015
Police said that Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at vehicles when they arrived, and that he threw at least one “softball size” rock at the officers and ignored their order to put down the rest. The officers claimed that the Taisers they employed had “no effect on the subject.”
Two of the officers were injured by the rocks and were treated at the scene, according to the Seattle Times.
The incident sparked months of protest over police force against minorities in Pasco, an agricultural center and majority Latino community in eastern Washington.
— RT America (@RT_America) February 15, 2015
Governor Jay Inslee said that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson will review the Franklin County prosecutor’s decision, stating that law enforcement, the community, and the Zambrano-Montes family will all benefit from the review, according to KVEW.
The attorney representing the wife and children of Zambrano-Montes, George Trejo, said the family was “extremely disappointed” by the prosecutor’s decision.
“His claim that there is insufficient evidence to establish any crime beyond a reasonable doubt is a pretext for his decision to protect law enforcement from the very beginning of this case,” he said in an email, according to the Times Free Press.
“We are not surprised by this decision but disgusted and disappointed. This is precisely the reason why we continually asked for an independent criminal investigation.”
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) September 9, 2015
One of the police officers, Ryan Flanagan, has resigned to take another job. The other two, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, remain on paid leave, the Times Free Press stated.
Before his death, Zambrano-Montes had grappled with a series of personal problems after breaking his wrists in a fall from a ladder, including depression, methamphetamine use, and joblessness. Moreover, he was nearly killed in a house fire during the winter, according to family members and city records, as reported by Reuters.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week seeking more than $25 million in damages, his relatives argued that the officers violated Zambrano-Montes’s civil rights, and that their behavior reflected a pattern of unconstitutional practices and excessive force by the city’s officers, in addition to poor training.
Family members filed a separate $4.76 million wrongful death claim against the city last month.