We perish because we know not… #TLENews
The videotaped deadly shooting by Pasco police of a homeless man who had reportedly been throwing rocks on a busy downtown street has raised numerous questions and prompted a protest Wednesday outside City Hall.
More than a dozen people apparently witnessed Tuesday’s rush-hour confrontation between 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who had gotten out of jail on Monday, and three officers. The officers had tried to arrest him after witnesses reported he was throwing rocks at cars outside the Fiesta Foods supermarket in downtown Pasco.
At least one witness posted a graphic cellphone video on YouTube showing Zambrano-Montes being pursued across a street by the officers and then collapsing to the sidewalk under a hail of police gunfire. Witnesses said Zambrano-Montes was carrying a rock and was walking away when the officers fired as many as 13 rounds.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington called the shooting “very disturbing,” and at least one eyewitness questioned the use of deadly force on a crowded street.
“I could not believe they were shooting guns. There were cars and people everywhere,” said Pasco resident Benjamin Patrick.
It was the fourth fatal police shooting in Pasco, a city of about 68,000, in the past six months. Officers were cleared of wrongdoing in the previous shootings.
Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger, at a news conference Wednesday, identified the officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting as Ryan Flanagan, a nine-year veteran assigned to patrol and traffic safety; Adam Wright, an eight-year veteran assigned to patrol who is also a firearms instructor and field training officer; and Adrian Alaniz, a patrol officer who has been with the department for two years.
He said the officers would be placed on administrative leave while a Special Investigative Unit, led and staffed by detectives from surrounding agencies, investigated the shooting. He said the results would be reviewed by Pasco police and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, and then released publicly. That could take weeks or months, the chief said.
“In the meantime, I would ask the public to believe in us and believe in the system and believe we will do the right thing,” he said.
Pasco police will conduct an internal review to determine whether the shooting complied with department polices. Capt. Ken Roske said particular attention will be paid to the officers’ decision to fire their weapons in what Metzger described Wednesday as one of the busiest intersections in Pasco.
In the meantime, the chief said he planned to meet privately with Zambrano-Montes’ family and hoped his promise of an independent investigation would satisfy the public, which he acknowledged as “understandably concerned” over the incident.
The Tri-City Herald reported about 60 people gathered outside Pasco City Hall on Wednesday to protest the shooting. Some held a sign that read, “Stop police brutality! It was rock!”
More than 100 protesters took to the street near the shooting scene Wednesday night, chanting “use your training, not your gun,” the newspaper reported.
“Fleeing from police and not following an officer’s command should not be sufficient for a person to get shot,” ACLU of Washington Director Kathleen Taylor said in a statement.
Metzger said police received a 911 call around 5 p.m. Tuesday from someone reporting a man was throwing rocks at passing cars at 10th Avenue South and West Lewis Street.
Metzger said two police officers were struck by rocks thrown by Zambrano-Montes. He said one of the rocks was as large as a softball.
He said officers tried to use a Taser on the man, but that the device had no effect.
Metzger said he did not know whether Zambrano-Montes was armed with anything other than rocks. Witnesses said they saw nothing else in his hands.
According to Franklin County Superior Court records, Zambrano-Montes was arrested in January 2014 on a felony charge of assaulting an officer when police were called to a disturbance involving a man reportedly hitting cars with a broom.
Officers confronted Zambrano-Montes, who they said threw several large objects at them — including a mailbox — before trying to run away. When one of the officers grabbed him, according to court documents, Zambrano-Montes allegedly tried to grab his gun, forcing the officer to head-butt him to try to break free. He was arrested after another officer used a Taser on him.
Because of his erratic behavior, Zambrano-Montes was first taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, where court documents indicate he acknowledged being under the influence of methamphetamine.
Court records indicate he pleaded guilty in June and was arrested just last week, apparently for failing to appear at a court hearing. He was released from jail on Monday, the docket indicates.
Patrick, a Pasco resident, was with his wife and three children at the Fiesta Foods grocery store and saw a police officer struggling with a man. Patrick said he got out of his car and was going to help the officer when two other Pasco officers drove up and confronted the man.
Patrick said the man was yelling at police. He said the man picked up two “rocks or dirt clods” and threw one, but it didn’t hit anyone.
At that point, he said, one of the officers tried to use a Taser, but Patrick doesn’t think both of the darts connected with the man. He said the man appeared to pull a dart from his arm and then start walking across the intersection.
“That’s when they started shooting,” Patrick said.
Patrick believes the man was first hit at that point. “I saw him react, sort of jump, like he’d been stung by a bee,” he said.
The man kept walking across the street onto the sidewalk, with the officers in pursuit. Patrick said he heard the police tell the man to get on the ground several times. The man appeared to turn, and a second volley of shots was fired and the man collapsed.
“I am really upset about what I saw,” said Patrick. “Yes, he was resisting. Yes, he was wrong. But it looked like there might be something wrong with him. And he wasn’t hurting anyone. He had a rock, not a gun. It seems it could have been handled differently.”
Chris Pirtle, another Pasco resident, was at the intersection in his car when he saw the man was throwing rocks at the officers.
“He had one cop in front of him, one behind him,” Pirdle told KNDU-TV news. “He would throw a rock at one in front of him, go back throw a rock at the guy behind him.”
Pirtle said the man had “a decent-sized rock in his hand and went to flinch and that’s when they just opened fire and dropped him.”
“He kept on screaming, ‘Shoot me, shoot me.’ ” Pirtle said. “And they just told him to drop the rocks and he just did not want to listen.”
Ayn Dietrich-Williams, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle, said the bureau is aware of the video and that agents were watching the local investigation.