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Mexico condemns deadly police shooting in Washington state

Associated Press
PASCO — Police who shot and killed a man accused of hurling rocks at officers in southeastern Washington are drawing criticism from as far away as Mexico. The death Tuesday of orchard worker Antonio Zambrano-Montes is the fourth fatal police shooting since last summer in Pasco, an agricultural city of 68,000 people about 215 miles southeast of Seattle. It has sparked protests after witnesses said he was running away when he was shot in a busy intersection. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department on Thursday condemned the shooting of the man raised in that country. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he was monitoring the situation. “We are going to need to get to the bottom of understanding the circumstances of this,” the governor said. “There will be, and needs to be, a very complete assessment of all of the circumstances of what happened here.” Police planned to discuss the shooting at a 1:30 p.m. PST briefing. Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, whose office was conducting an autopsy on Zambrano-Montes, said he was considering convening an inquest jury to look into the death. “We don’t want another Ferguson here in Pasco,” Blasdel told The Seattle Times, referring to the unrest that followed the Aug. 9 killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri, and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white officer who shot him. But the coroner says he won’t decide until the investigation wraps up. “This was really not a racial issue,” Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger told KING-TV of Seattle. The chief met for two hours with Zambrano-Montes’ relatives. “Three police officers against one man throwing a rock?” an aunt, Angela Zambrano, said to The Times. “This was murder in cold blood.” Police say Zambrano-Montes’ threatening behavior led officers to open fire. The 35-year-old threw multiple rocks, hitting two officers, and refused to put down other stones. They say a stun gun failed to subdue him. He had a run-in with Pasco police early last year, having been arrested for assault after throwing objects at officers and trying to grab an officer’s pistol, court records show. The shooting launched protests, and demonstrators say they will gather again Saturday. Meanwhile, a handful of people showed up at Pasco City Hall on Thursday to support police. “It’s important for these officers to know the entire community is not out to get them,” Chris Black, an Army veteran, told the Tri-City Herald. The police chief has appealed for patience during an investigation and an internal review. “The officers are … on administrative leave — until they are reviewed and everything is done, they will not be back to work,” he said. “It’s important we get the right information.” Some people who saw the shooting videotaped the confrontation. In one recording, five “pops” are audible shortly after the video begins, and the man can be seen running away, across a street and down a sidewalk, pursued by three officers. As the officers draw closer to the running man, he stops, turns around and faces them. Multiple “pops” are heard and the man falls to the ground. In three previous fatal police shootings in Pasco, prosecutors cleared officers with the Pasco Police Department and a sheriff’s deputy who was working on a regional SWAT team. Zambrano-Montes was raised in Michoacan, Mexico, and has lived for about a decade in Pasco, where more than half the residents are Hispanic. In its statement, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department called the shooting one of the “events in which unwarranted use has been made of lethal force.” The department said it was helping Zambrano-Montes’ family “with the aim of ensuring that all available legal avenues are explored and taken to their fullest extent.” Family members told the Tri-City Herald that Zambrano-Montes battled depression after being separated from his two teen daughters. “He was a kind person, family-oriented,” his cousin, Blanca Zambrano, told the newspaper. “He was hard-working.”
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