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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Feds won’t charge Pasco police in shooting death of orchard worker

Federal prosecutors will not file charges against the three Pasco police officers who shot and killed a man at a crowded downtown intersection in February 2015.

U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby announced the decision in a news release Tuesday, citing insufficient evidence that officers Adrian Alaniz, Ryan Flanagan and Adam Wright violated the civil rights of 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes before firing.

“These cases are difficult because someone has lost their life,” Ormsby said in the statement, adding his condolences for the family of Zambrano-Montes, an orchard worker from Mexico. “It is very important to consider multiple factors and apply the applicable law in determining whether or not to file criminal charges.”

The shooting death was captured on video by onlookers and quickly spread nationwide, following several other high-profile incidents of police using deadly force. A protest march attracted hundreds of demonstrators to the city of roughly 68,000, half of whom are Hispanic.

Officers had initially responded to the intersection of Lewis Street and 10th Avenue, where Zambrano-Montes was reportedly throwing rocks at passing vehicles. Ormsby said in his decision there was no evidence to counter the officers’ determination that deadly force was justified to protect the public.

Felix Vargas, of the group Latino Coalition of the Tri-Cities, condemned Ormsby’s decision not to prosecute in a statement.

“Mr. Ormsby had a choice. He could have filed a charge of ‘reckless endangerment’ against the three police shooters, but he chose instead to duck this option and to align himself with the local county prosecutor,” said Vargas, who has been critical of the investigation into the shooting. “In so doing, he drove the final nail into the coffin of justice in Pasco.”

At least one civil lawsuit remains unresolved in Zambrano-Montes’ death. Teresa De Jesus Meraz, Zambrano-Montes’ widow, sued the city and the officers in federal court on behalf of herself and the couple’s two young daughters. Other family members, including Zambrano-Montes’ mother, have joined the lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial in Richland in May 2017.

Ormsby and his office had previously intervened in the case against former Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, who was prosecuted by the office and convicted of civil rights violations in the March 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

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