Last night on Latino Rebels Radio during a detailed conversation about the shooting death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington, Felix Vargas of Consejo Latino said that his group would be formally requesting the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.
The following is the letter Vargas sent today to Attorney General Eric Holder.
900 North Road 64
Pasco, WA 99301
16 February 2015
Honorable Eric H. Holder
U.S. Attorney General
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20530
Re: Police Shooting – Pasco, WA
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
On behalf of the family of Antonio ZAMBRANO Montes, I request the immediate intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice in the case involving the shooting by members of the Pasco, Washington police force of Mr. Zambrano. The victim was an unarmed civilian who was fleeing the police at the time he was gunned down on the afternoon of Tuesday, 10 February 2015. The incident was fully captured on cell phone videos which are posted on You Tube and which have drawn widespread national and international condemnation, including by the President and Congress of Mexico.
I submit the following facts and observations for your consideration:
- Consejo Latino (Latino Council) is a community organization which champions economic development for Hispanic-owned businesses, promotes cross-cultural communication and understanding and advocates politically on issues of concern to the multi-cultural Pasco, WA community. It is made up primarily of prominent members of the Hispanic community, a community which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the city and county population. The Consejo, along with other organizations, is providing general support to the Zambrano family.
- The incident. At approximately 5:00 PM on Tuesday, 10 February 2015, Mr. Antonio Zambrano, a Mexican national, age 35, who may have suffered from mental illness and some substance abuse, was observed throwing rocks at cars at the busy intersection of 10th Avenue and Lewis Street in downtown Pasco. The police were called and upon arrival, confronted him, issuing commands in English, which was not Mr. Zambrano’s native language. Mr. Zambrano, after a brief scuffle, disengaged and ran across Lewis Street. The police, who had drawn their pistols, fired an initial volley at him and pursued. Once across the street, Mr. Zambrano turned left and proceeded west, with the armed police only a few yards behind him. After running approximately 50 feet, Mr. Zambrano stopped, turned and attempted to raise his arms in the air. At that moment, the officers fired their second volley into Mr. Zambrano, effectively executing him. In all, about 15 rounds were fired in a very congested area during rush hour. Having mortally wounded him, the police proceeded to handcuff this dying man without rendering aid or even checking his pulse. Cell phone videos posted on You Tube graphically capture the homicide. The visual portrayal of police killing an unarmed man attempting to surrender has shocked the conscience of our community, the nation, and even other countries.
- Previous police abuse. The three police officers who engaged Mr. Zambrano are Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz. It should be noted that officer Flanagan and another officer were accused in 2009 of racial profiling and excessive force for pressing the face of a 30-year-old Hispanic woman onto the hot hood of a police car as they detained her. She suffered second-degree burns, which led to litigation. The city of Pasco settled a lawsuit for $100,000.
- Local investigation. With the three officers placed on administrative leave, a local Special Investigative Unit (SIU), made up of local law enforcement personnel – excluding Pasco police – has been assigned responsibility for investigating the shooting. The process is expected to take 4-5 months. Once concluded, the results will be forwarded to the Franklin County prosecutor who will determine next steps. During its initial press conference on Friday, 13 February, the SIU confirmed that Mr. Zambrano did not have a gun or knife in his possession at any time during the incident. At most, he may have had a small rock in his hand, although that remains unclear. An autopsy has been performed and the local coroner has stated his intention to call for an inquest involving six jurors who will review the evidence and determine if charges should be filed against the policemen who shot Mr. Zambrano.
- Any investigation of this killing conducted by fellow police officers will have no credibility whatsoever. It is obvious to Consejo Latino that the perception in our community will be that local authorities have a conflict of interest. Indeed, in the past six months, there have been four police shootings in Pasco (including Zambrano) which have been or are continuing to be investigated by the local SIU. The three completed investigations have all exonerated the police involved. Why would anyone believe that the local SIU investigation of the Zambrano killing will yield a different result?
In sum, it appears inescapable that the lethal force applied by these police officers was excessive in the extreme and, as such, it constituted a violation of Mr. Zambrano’s constitutional rights. For the sake of the community, we believe it is imperative that the U.S. Department of Justice assume control of the investigation immediately. We anxiously await your decision on this matter.
Should you require additional information or justification, please contact the undersigned.
Colonel Felix Vargas (Ret.)