Jeff Roberson / AP

Ferguson lawyer to represent family of Pasco police shooting

Killing of Mexican man in Washington state for allegedly throwing stones sparked outrage across the nation

The high-profile attorney who represented the family of Michael Brown said Monday that he will represent the parents of an unarmed Mexican man who was shot and killed by police in Washington state after allegedly throwing stones.

Benjamin Crump, a Florida-based attorney, said that Antonio Zambrano-Montes' family was concerned about getting a fair investigation into the Feb. 10 shooting that was captured by witness video footage.

The Florida-based attorney has represented the families of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. He most recently hired by the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio in November. 

Crump's taking the case is an indication that nationwide attention focused on police shootings of unarmed men of color may next be turned on the agricultural Washington state city of Pasco.

Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old Mexican citizen and orchard worker, was shot and killed after allegedly throwing stones at passing vehicles at a busy intersection in Pasco. Pasco, along with Richland and Kennewick, make up the Tri-Cities, a fast-growing metro-area of about 200,000 in southeast Washington state.

Video footage recorded by witnesses showed the man running away from three police officers. Zambrano-Montes then turns to face them when the officers opened fire, killing him. Whether or not Zambrano-Montes had a rock in his hand is unclear from the video and is under investigation.

Authorities said the man was throwing stones at police officers.

"At the heart of the matter is what's going on with what we see on that video — is it appropriate or not?" Crump, who is based in Florida, told The Associated Press.

"Zambrano-Montes had his hands up. Why did you have to shoot him?" Crump asked.

Crump said the Pasco case is similar to other high-profile killings involving police officers.

"All the young people are protesting that Antonio had his hands up based on what they saw in the video, and he had no weapons," Crump said. "And just like in New York, it shows the graphic last moments of Eric Garner's life, here you have a video that shows the graphic last moments of Antonio's life."

In December, a grand jury in New York declined to indict an officer in Garner's chokehold death.

Zambrano-Montes' death sparked protests in Pasco and Seattle, with demonstrators over the weekend blocking the Tri-City's busy Cable Bridge, local media reported. The shooting also prompted calls for a federal probe.

The shooting has highlighted concerns over the fact that even though more than half of Pasco's residents are Hispanic, few are members of the police force or the city's power structure. 

Two of the three officers were white, while the third was Hispanic. All three fired, according to the Associated Press, though authorities have not disclosed exactly how many shots were fired. The killing was the fourth by Pasco police in less than a year; the previous three homicides were found to be justified.

Felix Vargas, head of the Pasco Hispanic rights group Consejo Latino, said a Seattle-based Justice Department official met with his group Sunday. The official said meetings are planned this week with local authorities, Vargas said.

The Franklin County coroner has ordered an inquest into Zambrano-Montes' death. It will be reviewed by a regional task force — who are expected to give an update on Thursday — and monitored by federal authorities. 

With wire services

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