Tragic Pasco Shooting Leaves Many Questions

March 23, 2015 6:15 am
by David Jakeman

Filmed with a cell phone from the driver’s seat, the video is chilling. It begins by focusing to the right side of the windshield. You can see a police car and an altercation occurring between police officers and a man. The man appears to throw a rock, and then he takes off across the street. The camera turns to the right as the man is crossing an intersection, and three police officers follow not far behind. The man turns around, and then the police officers fire several rounds into his body. He falls to the ground. And in just twenty-two seconds on Youtube, a man’s death is captured.

Tragic Scene in Pasco

The video has over 1.5 million views on Youtube, and it shows the recent death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old man. The man is also Hispanic, and observers can’t help but wonder if that played a role in his death. Zambrano-Montes’ death is becoming to be seen by many as a “Ferguson” moment for Hispanics across the country, referring to recent challenges between African-American communities and police forces. And it’s easy to see why. He is only armed with a few rocks, and when he is shot, he doesn’t appear to be carrying anything at all.

Pasco, one of three cities that makes up the Tri-City area in Washington, is home to a very large Hispanic population. In fact, 56 percent of the 68,000 inhabitants are Hispanic, but it would be difficult to see if you only looked at the city government or local police force. It is this lack of representation that makes many in the Hispanic population feel like second-class citizens.
One woman remarked that the video showed police who viewed Zambano-Montes as an animal. “They had him like a deer, hunting him,” she said. It is feelings like these that have brought out hundreds to gather, rally, and protest the police actions. It has been a catalyst for great discussion and questions about creating a better environment for the local Hispanic population.

Zambrano-Montes’ Past

Zambrano-Montes grew up in Mexico, and he came to the United States to work in the orchards. He was undocumented, and he did not speak English. This final brush with the law was not his first. Back in January 2014, he was arrested for throwing objects at police officers, and he even attempted to grab an officer’s gun. He pled guilty to the crime last June.

Things had been a bit rough in his personal life over the past year. His wife left him for California with their children, leaving him feeling isolated. Difficulties in the past few months also contributed to this feeling of hopelessness. He fell from a ladder in an apple orchard, a fall that left him with two broken wrists. In January, all his personal belongings were burned in a house fire.1 It is possible that all these difficulties contributed to his throwing of rocks at police officers, but it is hard to see why police officers believed they needed to use such deadly force.

Resolution?

While city officials are calling for calm and a larger investigation into the incident, it is easy to understand why the Hispanic population is frustrated with police actions. It is not the first time that Pasco police officers have been accused of wrongdoing, and it can be difficult for the Hispanic population to feel like they are on the same level as their fellow residents in the city.
Kennewick immigration attorneys, located across the river, might be reminded of a recent city council candidate, who argued that undocumented immigrants should get the death penalty. These type of local hostilities, along with greater uncertainty about national immigration reform, have left many immigrant populations frustrated and hopeless. It’s in this context that we should understand this recent tragic event.

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/us/killing-in-washington-state-offers-ferguson-moment-for-hispanics.html?_r=0