Police in Washington state fatally shot a man who was allegedly throwing stones at passing cars, police said Wednesday, but witnesses said he was trying to run away when he was killed.
Video taken by witnesses of the incident Tuesday evening showed the man near a police vehicle being shocked with a Taser by nearby officers, then running away across a street.
Three policemen chased him about half a block before video footage showed the man turn toward the officers before being shot and falling to the ground.
Witnesses said the man had a rock in his hand and may have tried to throw it at police, according to the Tri-City Herald local news website.
The police department in Pasco — a city about 135 miles southwest of Spokane, released a statement Wednesday saying officers had been called in response to a complaint involving a disturbance in which a male was throwing rocks at cars.
After police arrived at the scene, a confrontation started between the officers and the man, the release said. It said the man assaulted two officers before police unsuccessfully used the Taser on him.
“The suspect continued to not comply with the officers and at one point threatened them, forcing the officers to fire their handguns. The male died at the scene,” the statement said.
The man killed was 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes, whose last address was a Pasco homeless shelter, said Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel.
The ACLU of Washington also issued a statement, according to the Associated Press, calling the incident "very disturbing."
"Fleeing from police and not following an officer's command should not be sufficient for a person to get shot," said the group's executive director, Kathleen Taylor. Deadly force should be used only as a last resort, she said.
Thirteen gunshots were counted from the video, and local media cited police as saying the shots came from three officers. Witnesses said that it was clear the man was running away when he was killed, and that they didn't know why police opened fire.
“All I saw was this poor guy was running from the cops and I saw him go down. I saw the cops shooting at him. I didn’t see no gun. No reason. I just saw him go down,” a witness who wished to remain anonymous, told local reporters.
Area resident Ben Patrick, another witness who said he was just yards away when the shooting happened, told the Tri-City Herald that police fired at the man as his back was turned.
“I really thought they were just going to walk up and tackle or tase him” Patrick said. “But they opened fire. His back was turned.”
Patrick’s wife, Shannon Patrick, also said that she witnessed the shooting and that the man was running away when he was shot in front of her young children and dozens of other witnesses.
“He turned around to take off running and the cops just shot him,” Shannon Patrick said. “All he was trying to do was walk away.”
Pasco police spokesman Capt. Ken Roske said the man had refused to comply with the officers' commands before he was shot. Other witnesses told the Tri-City Herald that they heard police order the man to stop and drop the rock, which he refused to do.
The three officers involved in the fatal shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave, Roske said.
The incident is under investigation by the Tri-City Special Investigative Unit, a team led by a police commander from nearby Kennewick and comprised of local law enforcement officials. No Pasco police officers will be involved in the investigation, Roske said.
Pasco, Kennewick and Richland make up southeastern Washington’s Tri-Cities area, which has relatively low crime rates — but the shooting is the fourth police killing in the last seven months in Pasco, according to local media.
Deadly force was found to be justified in the previous three.
With The Associated Press