The police department in Pasco, Washington, said Wednesday an internal investigation had found that officers involved in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill Mexican farmworker earlier this year did not violate the department's policy or procedures.
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot dead by officers during a confrontation on Feb. 10 in the small city, which has a large Hispanic community and is an agricultural hub about 200 miles southeast of Seattle. Several people recorded the incident on their phone cameras.
“Deadly force was used consistent with policies in the Pasco Police Department Policy Manual. The investigation was conducted with a high degree of transparency and quality control,” the city’s police department determined.
A press release announcing the decision said that the department would try to expand its officers’ knowledge of crisis intervention, and would conduct more outreach within the community.
“We will also continue to work in partnership with the community to accomplish our mission of reducing the fear of crime while affording dignity and respect to every individual,” Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger said in a statement.
Zambrano-Montes’ death comes amid wider national scrutiny of police practices following the deaths of multiple people, some of them mentally ill as well, at the hands of police officers. Police reform advocates have said officers need more training to know how to handle people commiting crimes because of mental illness.
The announcement follows the county’s decision not to prosecute the officers involved.
On Sept. 9, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant announced that he would not bring charges against the officers involved in the man’s death. A federal investigation continues, the U.S. attorney for eastern Washington said at the time.
"I believe that a unanimous jury would not find the presence of malice or absence of good faith in this case,” Sant said at a news conference, where angry community members blasted his decision.
George Trejo, an attorney representing Zambrano-Montes’ wife and children, said then that the family was "extremely disappointed" by the prosecutor's decision not to charge the officers in a shooting relatives described as "the execution of their loved one."
The shooting happened after police said the farmworker threw rocks at the officers before trying to flee.
Video of the incident captured by bystanders showed Zambrano-Montes running from pursuing officers before turning to face them and being gunned down. The officers fired a total of 17 times.
Two stun guns failed to subdue Zambrano-Montes during the standoff, police said.
One of the officers, Ryan Flanagan, has since resigned. The other two, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, were placed on paid leave following the incident.
Zambrano-Montes grappled with a series of personal problems before his death, including depression, methamphetamine use, joblessness after breaking his wrists in a fall from a ladder, and a house fire in the winter that nearly killed him, according to family members and city records.
His relatives argued in a federal lawsuit filed last week seeking more than $25 million in damages that the officers violated his civil rights and reflected a pattern of unconstitutional practices, excessive force and poor training.
In August, family members filed a separate $4.76 million wrongful death claim against the city.
Al Jazeera and Reuters