The Pasco Police Department officers who shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes will not face criminal charges after a state review, the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced this week, but he did criticize the use of deadly force and called for new policing policies to reduce civilian deaths.
“While I am confident that my decision not to bring charges is legally correct, I am deeply troubled by Mr. Zambrano-Montes’s death. I believe that the use of deadly force in this case, though legally justified, was not the only possible way to protect the police and the public from his dangerous behavior,” Ferguson wrote in his letter to Gov. Jay Inslee regarding his decision in the case.
“Obviously, these techniques are not guaranteed to work in all scenarios. Adopting new practices throughout law enforcement will take. substantial investments in resources, training, and time. But these are investments worth making. My office will continue to support efforts to make policing safer both for the people of our state and for the men and women in law enforcement who protect us every day,” Ferguson’s letter states.
Ferguson’s office issued the review after Inslee called for a state review of the shooting. The Pasco Police Department posted on its Facebook page that it appreciated the state review which “helps with public confidence of the process.”
The Yakima-based advocacy group Latino Civic Alliance disagreed with Ferguson’s decision, issuing a letter of its own that called for changes in state law regarding officers’ criminal liability in deadly force cases. “We have a broken system to hold officers accountable. How can oversight be provided when there is no leadership?”
Pasco Police said that Zambrano-Montes, 35, threw rocks into a busy street in downtown Pasco, and then refused arrest and was chased in front of onlookers and downtown traffic until he was shot by police more than 16 times.
Zambrano-Montes’ death was the fourth fatal shooting in six months in the Pasco area. The officers involved in the previous shootings were cleared of wrongdoing.
Ferguson’s ruling was the third legal review that resulted in no charges against the officers who fatally shot Zambrano-Montes. The Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney and the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington also declined to file charges.
After Zambrano-Montes’ death, the federal Department of Justice reviewed the Pasco Police Department’s relationship with the community at the request of the police chief, according to the Tri-City Herald. The Department of Justice recommended that Pasco hire more Latinos, Spanish-speakers and women and also better training in the use of force, the paper reported.
The shooting of Zambrano-Montes, who was from Michoacan, drew condemnation from Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department, and drew calls for scrutiny of the case from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and from legislators.
Zambrano-Montes’ family also has filed a wrongful death suit against the city, according to the Tri-City Herald.
This story has been updated to add reaction from the Pasco Police Department and the Latino Civic Alliance.