Federal prosecutors have told a Latino group in Pasco, Washington, they are keeping close watch on a police investigation of three officers who fired 17 times in the shooting death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for Eastern Washington joins the FBI in keeping track of the investigation. The federal prosecutor’s office also plans to look into police procedures and practices, Consejo Latino leader Felix Vargas told NBC News.
Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said the investigation will be thorough and fair and “we’re not here to cover up for anybody.” Lattin is a spokesman for a regional law enforcement task force investigating the shooting.
The Feb. 10 death of Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old orchard worker from Mexico, has drawn community protests and led officials in Mexico to call for a civil rights investigation. The shooting was videotaped and shows police firing several times as Zambrano-Montes runs away and when he turns to face the officers.
Police said Zambrano-Montes threw rocks at passing cars and then officers. He was shot five or six times after police fired 17 times, according to preliminary autopsy information, although an independent autopsy suggests he was shot six or seven times, the Bellingham Herald reported.
Zambrano-Montes's mother, Agapita Montes-Rivera, recently told the press, "I want people to understand my pain." The 60-year-old said, "It's really hard - when I saw the video, I felt really bad. That's why I asked for justice."
Consejo Latino met 2 ½ hours with U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby to discuss the group’s request for the U.S. Attorney General’s office to investigate Zambrano-Montes’ death. The group was told the federal government wants to allow the investigation to go forward and see what it produces first, Vargas said.
“They were clear in saying we have a range of actions we can take now,” Vargas said.
Vargas said the group brought up police policies that were violated in the shooting, primarily that after Zambrano-Montes was shot, police handcuffed him, rather than provide medical attention.
The killing of Zambrano-Montes was the fourth by police in less than a year for the fast-growing Pasco, a city of 68,000. Officers were exonerated after similar investigations in the first three cases.
Officers are seeking details of Zambrano-Montes’ whereabouts in the weeks before the shooting. His home had recently burned and he had stayed for a time in a homeless shelter.
Zambrano-Montes was arrested last year for assault after throwing objects at Pasco officers and trying to grab an officer’s pistol, court records show.
--This report includes material from The Associated Press