Three police officers in Washington state who gunned down a Mexican immigrant, shooting him 17 times, will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
The Pasco, Wa. officers shot and killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was allegedly throwing rocks at police, in February. The incident, which was captured on cellphone video, led to protests in the majority Latino city.
Zambrano-Montes, 35, was reportedly yelling and throwing rocks at cars at a traffic intersection when police approached him. One officer apparently attempted to taser him, to no avail. According to prosecutors, the three officers opened fire after he turned toward them with a rock in hand. A toxicology report showed that he had high levels of methamphetamine in his body.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant said no charges were filed because of the high bar Washington State law sets for criminally prosecuting officers. "We legally cannot charge police officers with a crime for exercising their discretion to use deadly force, in good faith and without malice," he said in a statement.
At Sant's press conference announcing the decision not to file charges, protesters yelled and chanted "no es justo"—it's not fair.
Attorneys for Zambrano-Montes’s family said they were disappointed by the decision and planned to file a federal civil rights lawsuit. “This forces us to seek justice for Antonio and his family in a different forum, one of the family’s choosing, not in the police home court," attorney Jose Baez told the Guardian.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would review the local prosecutor's decision not to file charges. “I am committed to conducting a full and fair review of this matter,” he wrote in a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the shooting.
Files released in July raised questions about the investigation of the shooting, showing that the three officers involved were not questioned for months. "One rock can kill you,” Ryan Flanagan, one of the three officers, told investigators.
The shooting was the fourth fatal police shooting in Pasco in the previous six months.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.