In Wake Of Deadly Shooting, Pasco Police Chief Asks Angry Demonstrators To 'Trust Us'
Tuesday night’s shooting of a man near a popular grocery store by three Pasco police officers has angered many residents there. The shooting was captured in several phone videos (embedded below).
Toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents gathered outside Pasco City Hall on Wednesday night to protest the police shooting.
At first, the grim-faced crowd stood well back from City Hall's double doors. But then they pressed in close to the threshold. Police officers were inside.
The person killed Tuesday has been identified by his family as Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Pasco police say he was throwing rocks, one of which struck an officer.
Several bystander videos show three police officers chasing after him across a crowded intersection, then shooting him at near range.
This all happened in old-town Pasco near a popular big-box Mexican grocery store. Down the street are Mexican dress shops, bakeries and taquerias. Migrant farm workers came to southeast Washington, stayed, bought houses and set up businesses here. Zambrano-Montes died on the sidewalk.
His cousin, Maria Madrigal, says Zambrano-Montes was a small-statured man. She wants to know: Even if he had a rock, why didn't the police tackle him or use a Taser?
"I’m 5-foot-3, so I would say he’s a little bit shorter than me. I would probably say [he was] 5-foot-1 or 5 [feet]," Madrigal said. "He was a short guy, a small guy. I probably could have probably took him down. I probably could have took him down.
"But it’s still, in a way, hard to believe. Seeing his name announced, that it was for sure him. 'Cause even last night they wouldn’t let my mom identify the body at least. ‘Cause we had a really strong feeling that it was him.”
Madrigal did say her cousin had fallen on tough times lately. He’d been working hard at odd jobs. His wife had recently left him and taken their two daughters to California. Madrigal says when she would cut his hair, he wouldn’t talk to her the way he used to.
Madrigal is upset her cousin’s body lay in the street overnight.
"I don’t understand why they couldn’t remove the body," she said. "They could still continue investigation without the body. To me, it’s like just leaving a dead animal out there."
For their part, Pasco police aren’t saying whether they found a gun or weapons at the scene. They say three investigations have to take place before they'll say much more about the case.
The Tri-City Special Investigation Unit is looking into the matter. The Washington State Patrol Crime lab is involved. And an internal investigation by the Pasco police is also underway.
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger says he’s grieving with the town.
"I would ask the people trust us because certainly over the last 20 years with community policing, we’ve been very much involved in our community," Metzger said. "And I would hope that they have enough trust in us to know that we’re going to do the right thing for our community, because we all care about this community a great deal."
The three officers involved are on paid administrative leave until these investigations conclude.
Outside Pasco City Hall, several protesters said they believe the local police haven’t served the community fairly in the past.
"This cannot happen. This cannot happen," said Junior Valencia, 35, of Kennewick. "People are tired of it, and this shows today that we are tired of it. It’s not a color. It’s not a race. It’s not about anything else. It’s about: We’re all humans. We need to understand that, we need to fight for our rights as community, as a people."
News and talk of the shooting is jamming Spanish language radio stations, Twitter and Facebook.
Zambrano-Montes’ family is considering a lawsuit. Protesters are talking of further marches and vigils into the weekend.