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One of three Pasco, Washington, police officers who opened fire on a Mexican immigrant who threw rocks at officers in February told investigators he felt their lives were in danger and, "I had to stop him."
Pasco police Officer Adam Wright’s account of the events that led to the death of former orchard worker Antonio Zambrano-Montes on Feb. 10 were contained in hundreds of pages of documents released by the prosecutor’s office Wednesday.
"He was clear to me that he was gonna throw the rock and his arm movement showed that to me,” Wright told investigators, according to the documents.
"Once again, I felt like he was wielding potential deadly force if that rock struck us in our head. I decided I needed to act and I shot multiple times," he said, according to the report.
The fatal shooting prompted protests in Pasco, a town of about 68,000 in southeastern Washington. The Mexican government called it an unjustified use of deadly force.
Video captured the shooting and appears to show Zambrano-Montes running away from officers and then turning before he was fatally shot in a second burst of gunfire. The investigation found that Zambrano-Montes likely was holding a rock when he was killed, according to the report.
Witness Benjamin Patrick told investigators he heard police order Zambrano-Montes to drop the rock. ""It looked like he was turning to put it down," when officers fired, he said. "I think they shot him in the back. That’s what it looked like to me," Patrick said, according to the report.
Police shot at Zambrano-Montes in two bursts that evening, investigators said in the report.
Patrol car dash cam video shows a first volley of five shots being fired by police at 5:12:53 p.m., while Zambrano-Montes is in an intersection, and one of the officers is seen firing after a rock is thrown and lands near his leg.
The officers who fired in that volley were identified as Wright and Officer Ryan Flanagan, and investigators believe Zambrano-Montes was struck at least once at that time.
A second round of shots is heard being fired at 5:13:07 p.m. Wright, Flanagan, and Officer Adrian Alaniz, who were pursuing Zambrano-Montes on a sidewalk, fired a total of 12 shots, the report said.
About four minutes later, at 5:17:14, a call of "I still have a slight pulse" is heard over a police radio, and medics are cleared to approach the scene. CPR was given to Zambrano-Montes at 5:18 p.m., according to the documents.
Pasco police have said that officers were called to the busy intersection on a report that Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks at cars, and that police tried to use Taser stun guns twice to subdue him, but the devices had no effect.
"We were going home," Flanagan told investigators after the shooting, describing the rocks as large enough to kill, according to the documents. "He's not gonna take another officer's life. That's what he was trying to do. That was my perception."
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant said his office is still investigating whether criminal charges against the officers are warranted. He pledged a "thorough review of the evidence."
"The right decision is more important than a quick decision," Sant said Wednesday.
An autopsy found Zambrano-Montes suffered seven gunshot wounds. He was struck mostly in the upper body, but one wound was to his left buttock, according to investigators. All the wounds had a sideways or front-to-back track, the report said.
The autopsy also detected the presence of methamphetamine in Zambrano-Montes’ system, according to the documents. One witness said he thought he heard Zambrano-Montes tell police, "you’re gonna shoot me, shoot me."
Witnesses interviewed by police after the shooting said they thought Zambrano-Montes was shot in the back, and some were surprised he was shot at all.
"I turn around, I see they blow four shots on him ... it’s like, what the heck," Miguel Estrada told investigators, the documents reveal. "The guy only has rocks in his hands. There’s no danger, I mean, of having a gun or nothing."