Rally for Antonio Zambrano-Montes on anniversary of his death
A gray coffin with the spray-painted initials of Antonio Zambrano-Montes rested on a window Wednesday outside the Pasco bakery where the orchard worker was fatally shot by police a year ago.
Below the black letters, the phrase “no es justo” — “it’s not fair” or “it’s not justice” — was spelled out for passing motorists to see. The saying has been popular among the dedicated group of protesters who have marched in Zambrano-Montes’ memory over the last year.
Those same protesters, many of whom are part of the community group Tri-Cities Community Solutions, took to the corner near the bakery at 10th Avenue and West Lewis Street to again demand change from city officials.
Some held large cutouts of frames over their faces with the words “Am I next?” spelled out across the top. Down the side were the names of men — Zambrano-Montes, Brad Jensen and Matthew Stoddard — who have been killed by Pasco police in the past year and a half
Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot at 17 times by three Pasco police officers while he was high on methamphetamine. He had recently become homeless and threw rocks at police and passing cars.
Calls for change rang out not only at the protests Wednesday night, but also through the day at news conferences to mark the anniversary of the shooting.
The Latino Civic Alliance announced a plan to form a statewide advisory committee to improve communities’ relationships with law enforcement, and the state American Civil Liberties Union released a report suggesting an overhaul in policies and procedures within the Pasco Police Department
“I think today we put as much pressure as we can on state and local officials to act,” said Jeremy Peterson, spokesman for Tri-Cities Community Solutions. “Now, all the variables are in place for us to start to make some changes.”
The Latino Civic Alliance plans to hold several statewide forums to find a healthier approach to working with law enforcement.
The forums will begin this summer and are planned in 11 counties across the state, including Benton and Franklin counties. The other counties include Grant, Skagit, Whatcom, Yakima, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, Clark and Spokane.
“We have experienced too many unfortunate challenges in the community like the loss of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, and it’s time to work together to create a more healthy approach in working with law enforcement,” said Nina Martinez, the group’s chairwoman.
The group plans to start an advisory committee with about 20 people from around the state, including law enforcement, city and county officials, judges and community members.
About half of the participants have already been selected, officials said.
Three people from Benton and Franklin counties have agreed to be on the committee, though officials did not release their names at the news conference.
“We acknowledge there are law enforcement representatives that truly are invested to bridge and form better relationships with the community, but in some areas of our state there is an obvious gap that we need to address and build a safer community for all,” Martinez said.
The Zambrano-Montes case is still ongoing on a state and federal level.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the state Attorney General’s Office are reviewing the incident and Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant’s decision not to criminally charge the officers.
The DOJ is expected to release a report on the internal workings of the Pasco Police Department.
Family members of Zambrano-Montes have also filed two multi-million dollar lawsuits against the city of Pasco.
And the Franklin County coroner has called for an inquest into the death, though county commissioners have disputed whether they will fund the hearings.
Peterson took the fight to get commissioners to fund the inquest to a board meeting Wednesday.
The commissioners say Coroner Dan Blasdel hasn’t submitted a budget request for an inquest, and they are sympathetic to the community’s demand for answers in the case.
But the law is clear, they said — inquests serve to determine the cause of death and to help determine if charges should be filed. Both of those questions have been answered. Zambrano-Montes died of gunshot wounds and the officers were not charged.
“We all know what the cause was,” said Commissioner Bob Koch. “An inquest would not bring anything forward that is not already known.”
Commissioner Brad Peck said civil court or other public process is a better forum to ask if the shooting was necessary.
“I don’t see an inquest as a vehicle to do that,” he said.
Reporter Wendy Culverwell contributed to this report