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No Criminal Charges Against Officers Involved In Pasco Shooting

Franklin County Proecutor Shawn Sant and Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin deliver a media briefing on Tuesday, February 19.
Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
Franklin County Proecutor Shawn Sant and Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin deliver a media briefing on Tuesday, February 19.

Three police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a rock-throwing man in Pasco, Washington, last February will not face criminal charges.

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said Wednesday he concluded the officers were reasonable in their use of force against Mexican farmworker Antonio Zambrano-Montes.

"I believe that a unanimous jury would not find the presence of malice and the absence of good faith beyond a reasonable doubt in this case,” Sant said. “We legally cannot charge police officers with a crime for exercising their discretion to use deadly force in good faith and without malice.”

Protesters - including several cousins of the dead immigrant - repeatedly interrupted the news conference during which Sant explained his charging decision.

The parents of Zambrano-Montes have filed a multi-million dollar wrongful death claim against the City of Pasco. They contend their son did not present a "threat of grievous bodily harm" to anyone before he was shot.

The police shooting on February 10 was captured on cell phone video. It sparked numerous protest marches in the Tri-Cities this winter.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday asked the state attorney general to conduct a review of the local investigation and charging decision “to ensure that people have confidence and trust in the decision that is made in this case.”

"We will begin our review immediately," Attorney General Bob Ferguson responded in a follow up statement. "That being said, it is too soon to anticipate how long this review might take. I am committed to conducting a full and fair review of this matter.”

Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the case to determine if any violations of civil rights or federal law occurred.

Sant said the shooting investigation revealed that two of the officers first fired non-lethal Tasers at 35-year-old Zambrano-Montes, to little effect. An autopsy showed Zambrano-Montes was high on methamphetamine.

Sant said the officers commenced firing their service weapons after Zambrano-Montes aimed a "softball sized" rock at the head of Officer Adrian Alaniz. The three responding officers fired 17 bullets in all, of which fewer than half struck their target.

"A number of citizen (witnesses) also believe the officers were in danger," Sant said. "It is clear that their observations corroborated the officers' perceptions at the time of these events."

People upset about the decision not to press charges against the three police officers plan to hold a vigil Thursday afternoon in Pasco. "I was overwhelmed by how Shawn Sant could say in front of Antonio Zambrano’s family that it was a justified shooting," said Cierra Trenidad, who is active with the group Tri-Cities Community Solutions.

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Reporter Olivia Weitz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.