Pasco Police Will Not Face Criminal Charges

February 16, 2016 9:19 am
by David Jakeman

It is not often that Tri-city immigration attorneys see local events garner national and international attention, but the shooting of a Mexican immigrant last February was one bit of news that did travel around the globe. In part enabled by modern technology, the story made waves. But those who hoped that the officers would be punished for their perceived excessive force were sorely disappointed. The three officers will not face any criminal charges.

Pasco Event

Antonio Zambrano-Montes’ death gained international notoriety in part because it was captured on a passerby’s cell phones. Witnesses reported Zambrano-Montes fought with an officer, threw rocks, and told officers to kill him before they fired. But the video also showed the officers opening fire when Zambrano-Montes was running away, though investigators argue that he was transferring a three pound rock from one hand to the other that he was going to throw at the officers. Zambrano-Montes was also high on meth at the time, and officers had tried to subdue him with a stun gun.

The officers will not face criminal charges because the Franklin County Prosecutor believes that there was no ability to prove that the officers acted with malice. Shawn Sant, the Franklin County prosecutor, held a news conference to announce his findings. Not surprisingly, there were many disappointed attendees, and Sant’s speech was interrupted by protestors numerous times. The challenge for Sant in prosecuting the officers was the inability to meet the high bar of criminal prosecution under Washington state law, which requires showing that malice and a lack of good faith meant that their actions were not justified.

Challenge of Holding Police Accountable

Such is the challenge of holding police accountable for actions that may seem disproportionate to the behavior. State laws often provide police with a fair amount of leeway in protecting their behavior. Zambrano-Montes’ wife and children are not happy with the decision, and their lawyer has filed a civil suit against the city and three officers.

Of the three officers, one has taken a job elsewhere, while the other two officers are on paid leave. Many members of the immigrant advocacy committee are frustrated with the results of the investigation. It remains to be seen how the civil suit goes. Overall, Kennewick immigration attorneys, and others in the region, have a good understanding of how big this event was, both for the community for and bringing attention to how immigrants are treated by law enforcement.

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