Three police officers in Washington state who fatally shot a man who threw rocks at them in February will not be charged, the county prosecutor said Wednesday.
Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant said Wednesday that an investigation found no basis under state law to criminally charge the officers.
“We are tasked with evaluating whether there’s criminal liability on the officers,” Sant said. “The statute is very clear.”
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old Mexican national, was shot and killed near an intersection in Pasco shortly after 5 p.m. The shooting was captured on video taken by bystanders, and inspired protests and criticism from the Mexican government that the use of force was excessive.
Pasco police officers Adam Wright, Ryan Flanagan and Adrian Alaniz were involved in the shooting. Police said the rocks could have caused severe injuries to themselves or others, and officers tried to use a Taser stun gun but the device had no effect.
Autopsy toxicology tests returned “presumptive positive for amphetamines” in Zambrano-Montes’ system, according to police documents released in July.
One witness said he thought he heard Zambrano-Montes tell police, “you’re gonna shoot me, shoot me,” according to the investigation documents.
Wright and Flanagan fired at Zambrano-Montes after he threw a rock at Alaniz’s head, and Zambrano-Montes was shot in the arm, Sant said. The three officers then pursued him across the street and fired when he allegedly turned and raised his arm, apparently to throw another rock, Sant said.
Zambrano-Montes’ family on Sept. 3 filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the three officers involved. The suit was filed on behalf of his wife and two daughters.
In a contentious meeting in announcing that no charges would be filed, some in the crowd did not accept Sant’s explanation, noting that 17 shots were fired, and questioning whether the officers used excessive force. Some shouted, “no justice, no peace!”
Sant said he was limited by state law and what he could prove in court. He said officers are generally justified in the use of deadly force unless there is a presence of malice or if the officers were not acting in good faith.
“I think if anyone of you had a 5-pound rock thrown at you, I think most people would determine that that rock is a deadly weapon in how that was used in that case,” Sant said.
All three officers were placed on administrative leave after the shooting. Flanagan resigned in June for another job opportunity, NBC station KNDU reported.
A police internal investigation is still ongoing and it has not been determined when or if the other officers would return to duty, Police Chief Bob Metzger said.
Pasco is a city of about 68,500 in the south-central part of the state, near the Oregon border.