The police shooting of a Mexican national in Pasco, Washington, has drawn local protests and international outrage—and has raised fears of what one official said could be “another Ferguson.”
Dan Blasdel, the coroner of Franklin County, said the controversy surrounding the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old native of Michoacán, Mexico, was enough to warrant a coroner's inquest, which is when a "jury is presented evidence of the shooting and decides whether the officers were justified in their use of deadly force," according to the Seattle Times.
That rarely used inquest would then make a recommendation to the county prosecutor.
He added: “We don’t want another Ferguson here in Pasco,” referring to the St. Louis suburb where the officer-related death of teenager Michael Brown sparked weeks of protests and international scrutiny on the small municipality.
Zambrano-Montes's run-in with police on February 10 occurred after he was throwing rocks at cars. He also struck two police with rocks when they arrived to the scene, police said. Details on their injuries have not been released.
Video of the shooting, in which Zambrano-Montes appears to be running from police, went viral this week. At one point in the video, he appears to turn and face the officers, then is shot several times.
The shooting happened on one of the city's busiest intersections, and there were several dozen witnesses, according to the Seattle Times.
The Mexican Department of Foreign Relations issued a "strong condemnation" of the shooting, adding that it is helping Zambrano-Montes' family to make sure "all the legal options are explored and taken to their fullest extent."
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger has reportedly stated that all officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, and that the incident was not a racial issue. His office did not immediately respond to comment for this story.
The most recent incident is the fourth time in recent months where police have shot and killed someone in Pasco. In these previous cases, prosecutors have cleared officers of all charges, the AP reports.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said his staff is monitoring the situation, and has been in touch with local officials.
"We are going to need to get to the bottom of understanding the circumstances of this," he said. "There will be, and needs to be, a very complete assessment of all of the circumstances of what happened here. And that needs to happen, in detail, in depth."
A Saturday protest in Pasco is being organized by the group Occupy Tri-Cities. Organizers say they have met with Pasco police, Zambrano-Montes' family, and community leaders to "ensure everyone is on the same page" for the event.
"We all want to make sure that this rally and march go without incident and we will have our own people involved with crowd control and de-escalation as well for any incidents that arise," an organizer wrote on the event's page.
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.