UPDATE, February 16: This is the letter Consejo Latino sent today to the Department of Justice.
Last night, Latino Rebels Radio discussed the shooting death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington, with leaders of Pasco’s Consejo Latino. Rick Rios, Gabriel Portugal and Felix Vargas joined the show to share the latest about a story that has gotten national and international attention. In addition, Eddie De La Cruz of Oregon added insights as to how his community had begun to change community relationships with law enforcement, a model being followed by Consejo Latino. A lot was discussed last night —including more about Zambrano-Montes, his family’s reaction, Saturday’s march and one the previous record of one of the Pasco officers involved in the shooting— so you can hear the entire show below.
We did also pull out a few longer quotes from Vargas, the head of Consejo Latino. A native of Pasco, Vargas is a former Green Beret and Army Ranger. As Rios said in his introduction Vargas to the show, the Consejo Latino leader retired as a colonel and spent time in the U.S. diplomatic corps.
Something horrible has happened in our community, which is broadly recognized as a complete breakdown in what is normally accepted as standard behavior and actions here. We have a breakdown in policies and procedures, which were graphically captured in the cell phone videos of the incident, which point to the underlying problems of how the police relate to their community and how the police comport themselves in front of a community that they are to serve and protect. It’s very troubling, I must say, I mean, having been a military guy, having been in three wars as an infantry officer… I know about rules of engagement, I know about continued use of force, and every practice that I’m aware of was violated.
What is most tragic is that two weeks before this incident, we had met with [Chief Robert Metzger] and [City Manager Dave Zabell]… precisely to talk about ways we could avoid an incident like this. We pointed to what happened in Ferguson, we pointed to what happened in New York, and the whole purpose of the meeting was to just see where we were in how the police related to the community… the training… and the preparation, and to see if there wasn’t anything more that the police could do to prepare themselves for an eventual scenario of what unfolded on Tuesday.
We were assured by the police chief that all the mechanisms were in place, the protocols were observed, constant training and practice and rehearsals by the police officers completed and mitigated against any kind of scenario. So, now what happens? I’m left aghast that the police chief either did not level with us or did himself not know how low-level a training that his police force had. It’s something that is very very troubling.
It points to deeper issues that just the incident on Tuesday, and I think what we need, and what we’ve called for, is an investigation, which is going to be credible… and it’s going to be credible because it needs to be independent and higher level.
We are writing a letter, as we speak, to the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder, and requesting the immediate intervention by the Department of Justice in conduction an investigation to determine if the civil rights of Mr. Zambrano were violated and to see if there was excessive use of force. We need to do that because the local police investigation afoot is simply not credible. Beyond that, we’re going to look at reforms and changes to the training and the practices and procedures… and we’re going to be demanding reforms and changes that are needed to deal with special cases of mental illness, which Mr. Zambrano suffered from, with people who don’t understand English because that’s not their native language.
And for God’s sake, when you shoot someone, and he is mortally wounded, do you not have the responsibility to render life-saving assistance instead of handcuffing a corpse? All these things, which are part of the protocol, must be reviewed. And we will demand changes and I expect that at the end of this, we’re going to have something which we will call The Zambrano Protocol—a complete new component in the training and in the policies and procedures… which will, in my view, prevent a similar incident, at least to the extent possible, of happening in the future.
Later in the show, Vargas said the following:
There can’t be no other solution but the prosecution and conviction of three police officers who used excessive force as captured by the cell phone videos. They cannot be exonerated. There is no way that they cannot be exonerated, and anything short of that will not be accepted by this community.
I need to be very clear on that… that any solution short of prosecution and conviction of these people will not be accepted by this community. Officer Flanagan, Ryan Flanagan, the man who was accused in 2009 of racial profiling and excessive force for pressing the face of a 30-year-old woman against the hot hood of a car, causing second-degree burns, he could never, should never again wear the uniform and represent the police community. That’s what we want, that’s what should come out of this.
Anything short of that will be a total breakdown here, which will cause great great unrest in our community, I must say.