Latino leaders in Pasco, Washington say they met Sunday with a federal Department of Justice official who plans meetings this week with Pasco police and others into the police shooting death of a Hispanic man.
The Feb. 10 death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old orchard worker who police said was unarmed, has sparked growing outrage in the U.S. and Mexico and calls for a federal investigation to determine if his civil rights were violated and if police used excessive force. The shooting was captured on a widely seen video that appears to show Zambrano-Montes moving away from officers as they open fire; police have said he was being chased because he was throwing rocks.
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The fatal shooting was the fourth by police in Pasco in the previous six months, making this agricultural city of about 68,000 residents the newest center of a growing national debate about police violence. Last week, the Pasco Latino leaders group Consejo Latino called for a federal investigation into the shooting.
Felix Vargas, a Pasco business leader and the group’s chairman, said the Justice Department official told the group he would stay in Pasco a few days and would propose a meeting with Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger, Consejo Latino and possibly Zambrano family members.
According to Vargas, the official, a DOJ conciliation specialist, said the intent of the meeting is to seek solutions that could include improved police policies and more training.
“The DOJ official assured us that the DOJ takes civil rights violations very seriously and that the Consejo Latino letter requesting DOJ intervention in the Zambrano case had been discussed at a high-level DOJ meeting in Washington, D.C. on Saturday,” Vargas said in an email to NBC News and media members Sunday. He said the DOJ official asked not to be named.
The family of Zambrano-Montes has hired a new attorney, Charles Herrmann, who withdrew a $25 million dollar claim filed by the family's previous attorney and who is working with the family, including Zambrano-Montes's wife and daughters as well as his parents and younger siblings. Herrmann also said the Mexican government has expressed its support to the family, who wants to bury Zambrano-Montes in Mexico.
-NBC Producer Shelley Osterloh contributed to this report.