$25 million lawsuit against Pasco police alleges “racial animus” against Hispanics

Last week brought America’s latest high-profile police slaying of a minority person, in this case a Hispanic man killed by Pasco, Washington, police — a department whose officers have killed several people in just the past few months.

Antonio Zambrano-Montes wasn’t innocent. Distraught over a recent marital breakup and loss of custody of his children, he began behaving erratically. Police were called because he was throwing rocks at passing vehicles on a Pasco thoroughfare. When the cops arrived, he threw rocks at them, too, injuring two officers slightly. It’s even possible he was trying to commit “police suicide.”

But as this bystander video clearly shows, killing him wasn’t necessary. Police have acknowledged he didn’t have a gun or knife, and may not even have had a rock in his hand. The video shows him raising his hands and turning toward the police moments before he was shot from a range of about 20 feet — too far away for him to physically assault the officers. Yes, he was menacing the cops; but police are supposed to be trained to handle these situations. That’s part of their job.

It’s another case of gratuitous police violence against a citizen — once again, a minority person.

Now, Zambrano-Montes’ family have filed a $25 million claim against the city of Pasco, alleging among other things that “At the time that he was shot and killed, execution style, by the three officers named herein, in broad daylight, and with no knife or firearm in his hands, and for the conduct of throwing rocks at an earlier time, Mr. Zambrano-Montes posed no danger to the three officers, such that they were justified in the use of deadly force” and accusing the city of  “retaining officers who had a proven history of violation of civil rights against the Latino/Hispanic community” and “allowing and fostering overt racial (animus) towards the Hispanic/Latino community within the Pasco Police Department.”

The Mexican Consul has protested Zambrano-Montes’ death, members of Pasco’s large Hispanic community have organized demonstrations, and the FBI is being asked to investigate the police actions for possible civil rights violations. Governor Inslee has gotten involved, and the Franklin County Coroner has promised an inquest once the investigation is completed.

The reports have yet to be written, and the lawsuit likely will drag out for years, but this much is clear: This was lousy policing, and it should be unacceptable in our communities. The racial component is an aggravating factor that justifies getting the federal government — which has played an important role in American history in protecting Native Americans, blacks, Latinos, and members of other minority communities from oppressive and abusive actions by state and local authorities — involved in the case.



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