Gov. Jay Inslee asked the Washington state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday to review the decision by the Franklin County prosecutor not to charge three police officers in the video-recorded shooting death of a rock-throwing Mexican man in February.
“I want to ensure that people have confidence and trust in the decision that is made in this case,” Inslee said in a letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Ferguson responded that his office didn’t have the “original criminal jurisdiction” in the case until the governor or the county prosecutor requested a review.
“We will begin our review immediately. That being said, it is too soon to anticipate how long this review might take,” he wrote. “I am committed to conducting a full and fair review of this matter.”
Franklin County District Attorney Shawn Sant announced his decision in the death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Michael C. Ormsby, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, also issued a statement on the case: “The FBI, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Civil Rights Division will continue their independent review and analysis of the investigative materials . . . and conduct any additional investigation necessary to determine whether there exists a prosecutable violation of federal law.”
He said it’s not possible to accurately estimate how long their investigation will take.
The attorney for the wife and children of Zambrano-Montes said they are extremely disappointed with the prosecutor’s decision.
“His claim that there is insufficient evidence to establish any crime beyond a reasonable doubt is a pretext for his decision to protect law enforcement from the very beginning of this case. We are not surprised by this decision but disgusted and disappointed,” the release said.
The city of Pasco and the Pasco Police Department were expected to release a joint statement in response to Sant’s decision.
The release likely will address an internal investigation into the actions of three officers who were placed on paid administrative leave following the shooting of the 35-year-old Pasco man.
One of the officers, Ryan Flanagan, has since resigned. Officers Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz remain on the force.
The announcement comes seven months after Zambrano-Montes, an orchard worker who was left homeless after a fire burned his house, was killed during a video recorded confrontation with police at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Lewis Street.
Zambrano-Montes threw several large rocks at officers, who told investigators they feared for their safety.
They first used Tasers to subdue Zambrano-Montes and then fired on the Mexican national in the crowded intersection. The officers fired two volleys of shots. Zambrano-Montes had at least seven gunshot wounds.
A large rock was found near his body in front of a bakery on Lewis Street.
Toxicology tests showed Zambrano-Montes was under the influence of methamphetamine during the confrontation. Witnesses reported he told police to shoot and kill him.
The shooting was captured on cellphone video, prompting months of protests in Pasco and outrage from as far away as Mexico.
The U.S. Department of Justice stepped in to help train the Pasco Police Department, which has been scrutinized for the officers’ decision to kill Zambrano-Montes.
The shooting was investigated by a team of local police, called the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit. The decision to have local police investigate the shooting has drawn criticism.
Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel has said he plans to hold an independent inquest into the death but has had trouble finding a place to hold it.
An inquest allows a civilian jury to determine the cause and manner of death in the case, and make a recommendation on whether the shooting was justified.
Lawyers representing Zambrano-Montes’ family have filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Pasco alleging the officers used excessive force.
Zambrano-Montes lived in Pasco for about a decade prior to the shooting and has a large family in the area.
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