New developments in the shooting of an unarmed Mexican man in Washington are drawing even stronger comparisons to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.
This weekend, several hundred people attended a protest against police brutality in Pasco, Washington, where last week Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot by police. Video of the shooting, which appears to show Zambrano-Montes retreating from police officers as he was shot, has gone viral, sparking international outrage. He was throwing rocks at cars and police when the incident happened.
Signs reading "Use Your Training, Not Guns" and "Good Police We Respect You" could be seen around the crowd at the protest, and local leaders called for a full review of the Pasco Police Department, Western Washington's KING 5 network reported.
Partly because Zambrano-Montes was unarmed, his death has recalled that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked weeks of protests and a nationwide campaign against perceived police brutality.
It was the third police-involved shooting in Pasco since July, and the first of a Hispanic man in a town where just over half the population is Hispanic.
A New York Times piece called his death a "'Ferguson' moment for Hispanics":
It has drawn condemnation from the president of Mexico and multiple investigations, including inquiries by a task force of local police agencies, by the county coroner and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An official from the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Washington has also called community leaders, assuring them that the shooting will get a thorough review, which may include an examination of police training and whether it played a role.
And similar to how the nation learned details about the ways in which Ferguson's legal system made the town ripe for social unrest, a narrative of racial tension is beginning to reveal itself in Pasco. From that New York Times piece:
Though Latino workers have been here since at least the 1960s, attracted by jobs gathering fruit and asparagus in the region’s vast fields, few have moved into law enforcement or city government. Of the city’s 68 officers, 14 are Hispanic. A dozen officers speak Spanish fluently, and some residents cite language barriers that complicate interactions with the police. The City Council has one Latino member. The five-member school board, which oversees a system that is 70 percent Latino, typically has one or two Latino members, but this year has none.
“People are finally getting their feelings out through this whole Antonio issue,” said Alicia Coria, 18, a former neighbor of Mr. Zambrano-Montes’s who moderated a recent protest, guiding a sea of Latino residents through local streets, signs and fists held high. “The Hispanic community is finally trying to have the power.”
On Friday, Zambrano Montes' family filed a claim with the city of Pasco for $25 million in damages. It was filed by his widow, with whom he was reportedly estranged, and by his two daughters.
The county coroner has decided to hold a rarely used public inquest into the shooting, which would then make a recommendation to the county prosecutor of whether to press charges on the officers. He has reportedly vowed to make sure Hispanics make up at least half of that inquest's panel in an attempt to represent the city's racial makeup. That process could take up to six to eight weeks, reported the Associated Press.
In the meantime, County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said it was too early to speculate about what charges could be brought against the officers.
One of the officers involved in the shooting, Ryan Flanagan, was the defendant in a 2012 lawsuit in which he and another officer were accused of racial profiling and using excessive force against Maria Davila-Marquez, then 30 years old.
Some details from the Tri-City Herald's report at the time:
Officers stopped Davila-Marquez in May 2009 near Road 60 because they said she fit the description of a teenage girl who was causing a disturbance in the area, both [her attorneys] De la Cruz and Crutchfield said.
Davila-Marquez was 30 at the time and her clothes did not match the description, De la Cruz said. The only similarities between Davila-Marquez and the description of the teenager were that both were female and Hispanic.
Davila-Marquez — a naturalized citizen who didn’t speak English well — had trouble communicating with officers, who refused to let her speak with an interpreter, De la Cruz said. When officers couldn’t verify Davila-Marquez’s name in their computer system, they placed her in handcuffs.
The lawsuit claims Davila-Marquez arms were forced behind her back and her face was shoved onto the hot hood of a police car, causing second-degree burns and other injuries, De la Cruz said. She also was searched by the officers even though department policy prohibited male officers from searching females.
The case was settled in 2013 for $100,000, with the city and the officers admitting no wrongdoing.
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.