Protestors shut down traffic on the cable bridge Saturday evening, as turmoil continued in Pasco nearly two weeks after the controversial shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.
A group of more than 50 people blocked two lanes as they slowly marched south toward Kennewick. Although lines of cars were backed up the length of the bridge, many motorists yelled and honked in support.
The protesters then turned and marched back towards Pasco, blocking traffic heading north as the sun set on the Columbia River. A police car kept its distance as it trailed to the crowd to Pasco, then drove off.
Shouts of “We will not be silenced” and “We are all Antonio” echoed down 10th Avenue.
“This is about the right to not be shot by police because you have a rock in your hand,” said Alfredo LLamedo, 53, of Spokane, as he marched. “How many bullets were in that rock?”
The bridge march was the climax of an afternoon of peaceful protests, which have been ongoing in the city since Zambrano-Montes was killed Feb. 10 while running from three Pasco police officers. More than 100 turned out Saturday afternoon for the second-largest protest since the shooting.
The group was a mix of locals and others from around the state and Pacific Northwest. There were members of the United Farm Workers organization, well-known demonstrators from Seattle, and representatives of Occupy Tri-Cities.
There were no arrests reported and police had little contact with protesters, authorities said. Pasco police officials decided not to have patrol officers intervene when protesters marched across the bridge.
A majority of the demonstrators and speakers were Hispanic. They gathered at the spot outside a cafe where Zambrano-Montes died.
“This is not good. It’s not a good sign. It affects us all,” said Fard Mohammed, 65, from Tacoma. “The whole town should be out here from what I saw on that video.”
The shooting was captured on cellphone video cameras by several people at the busy intersection where the confrontation took place. The graphic videos of Zambrano-Montes — being chased down by the three officers, then shot as he turns towards them — have sparked outrage internationally.
The Pasco man was not carrying a knife or gun, and the shooting has led to a debate over whether someone holding a rock poses enough threat for officers to justify deadly force.
Angela Zambrano, Zambrano-Montes’ aunt, was in tears when she talked about her nephew and the tragic end to his pursuit of the “American Dream.” Like many of the Mexicans who come to the United States, the orchard worker only wanted a better life and future, she said.
“They took that opportunity away from him," she said. "My nephew spent 10 years in this country. And now look at the way he’s going to back to Mexico.”
While organizers again called for peace Saturday, many in the crowd vented anger over the latest police shooting in Pasco. There have been four fatal shootings involving police officers in the city since July.
People shouted for a federal agency to take over the investigation into Zambrano-Montes’ death. They also called for charges against officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz for the “murder” of the father of two.
The officers are on paid administrative leave while a 15-member team of officers from four local departments investigates the shooting.
“The people are still not satisfied as to what has occurred,” said local resident Robert Cornejo, 74. “The situation and the answers have not been explained. They want to know what really happened. What caused this?”
Protesters held up a large black banner with pictures of others allegedly killed by law enforcement. The family of a 35-year-old Yakima man who died in 2013 while in Pasco police custody was in the crowd holding his picture.
The Franklin County Coroner’s Office ruled Ismael Maria-Acevedo’s death an accident as a result of mixing cocaine and alcohol. He was involved in a chase with police after a fight broke out at the Golden Nugget nightclub in Pasco. The father of four reportedly stopped breathing while in custody.
Alejandra Maria, Maria-Acevedo’s wife of 13 years, told the Herald her family hired a private detective to investigate the death, but they eventually ran out of money before getting any answers. The most recent shooting brought back painful memories and suspicion that her husband’s death was not accidental, she said.
“It hurt my heart because it was the same thing that happened to my husband,” she said through an interpreter.
The crowd marched through downtown to a roundabout between 3rd and 4th avenues, where they rallied around a Pasco police car. The protestors yelled at the cops to “stop killing us” before walking a few blocks to City Hall.
Nick Reykdal, who was in the crowd as it moved to City Hall, was visiting the Tri-Cities with his wife from Olympia, he said. He read about the shooting and wanted to take part in the march to get a feel for how the locals are reacting and what they plan to do.
“The voice needs to be heard from the people,” Reykdal said while walking down 3rd Avenue. “People are dying in the streets. After I saw the cellphone video I was shocked.”
The group — some wearing masks and riding on skateboards and bikes — swarmed the Pasco police station and yelled over loudspeakers that they would not be silenced. People screamed for justice as two police officers made their way to a patrol car lot.
However, everyone remained peaceful and police say the crowd started to disperse shortly after the bridge march about 8:30 p.m.
Felix Vargas, a Zambrano family adviser and leader of a local Hispanic community group, told the Herald an official with the U.S. Department of Justice will be in town Sunday to discuss the shooting. He has asked federal officials take over the investigation.
Vargas has not agreed with Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger’s handling of the shooting, particularly his “denial” that there needs to be changes in protocols and training within the force, he said. He has called for a review of the department following the local investigation.
“What happened here Feb. 10 is a breakdown in protocols as it is,” Vargas said just feet from where Zambrano-Montes was shot. “But it was also a breakdown in leadership.”
The Mexican government is working with the family to have Zambrano-Montes’ body returned to his hometown in Michoacan, Mexico.
Family is planning a viewing on Monday and Tuesday in Pasco. A funeral service will be held Wednesday.
Reporter Franco Ordonez contriubted to this report