There appear to be contradictions in what police are reporting and what an independent autopsy has found in the case of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, the Mexican man who was shot by police in Pasco, Washington, earlier this month.
The case has brought international attention to the small Washington town, with some warning it has the potential to turn into “another Ferguson.” Zambrano-Montes, 35, had been seen throwing rocks at cars and police. He was unarmed.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Sergeant Ken Lattin of the Kennewick Police Department, the spokesperson for a regional unit that is investigating the case, stated that officers "fired their handguns a total of 17 times" when they killed Zambrano-Montes on Feb. 10.
Lattin added that Zambrano appeared to be struck by "five to six" of those rounds, and that "at this time we know that Antonio Zambrano-Montes was not shot in the back."
But an independent autopsy obtained by the Tri-City Herald, a local paper, tells a slightly different story—leaving open the possibility that Zambrano-Montes was shot in the back.
“The independent autopsy revealed Zambrano-Montes was shot in the left buttocks and in the back of the right arm, near his shoulder” the paper reported.
It’s possible that the shot to the buttocks may have come from the side, the Herald noted. The independent autopsy was sought by Zambrano-Montes family, and was given by a prominent Seattle doctor.
“I’m mildly surprised he was only hit from behind twice,” the attorney who hired the independent forensic pathologist told the paper.
The final analysis by the medical examiner will be completed in the next four weeks, Lattin said. That report will be released to the family, and will not be made public in its entirety, unless the family releases it themselves, says Franklin County coroner Dan Blasdel.
A rare jury-like inquest into the case has been called by the county coroner, which will then give a recommendation whether to prosecute the officers involved in the shooting.
In other updates to the investigation, investigators said that the three officers involved with the shooting, who have been placed on leave pending review, have not been interviewed yet.
“We need to interview them when we have all the facts, so we can make sure when we interview them they’re not misconstruing something,” Lattin said. “If we don’t have all the facts, they can tell us whatever story they want.”
Community leaders have called on the federal government to review the case, stating that local investigators would not be impartial, since they have "close" relationships with Pasco police.
Local Hispanic group Consejo Latino has also made calls for Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant to recuse himself from the case, citing the fact that he was previously a reserve officer in the nearby city of Prosser, and a reserve officer in Richland, a neighboring city of Pasco, which is participating in the investigation.
“The mere fact he stands alongside Sgt. Lattin for three weeks now answering questions indicates to me he’s part and parcel of this investigation,” Felix Vargas, president of Consejo Lation, told the Herald.
On Wednesday night, the group met with U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby to discuss the case.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.