More than a dozen witnesses watched as Pasco police shot and killed a man Tuesday night near a crowded intersection by Fiesta Foods, a popular grocery store.
A cellphone video of the shooting posted to YouTube showed officers shooting the man outside Vinny’s Bakery and Cafe on Lewis Street as he ran away.
Police did not release the man’s identity Tuesday night. It’s unclear in the video if he was armed and police say they are unsure if a weapon was found at the scene.
Witnesses say the man picked up a rock and appeared like he wanted to fight officers who responded to a disturbance call about 5 p.m. near Fiesta Foods. One witness told the Herald the man threw a large rock at a passing vehicle shortly before police arrived.
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Police tried to shock him with a Taser, but it had little effect on him, said Ben Patrick, who was just yards away in the grocery store parking lot with his family when the shooting happened.
“The guy was trying to pull the Taser (prongs) out of his arm,” he said.
The man was carrying a rock and may have tried to throw it at police, witnesses said. The grainy video shows him coming at officers on 10th Avenue, then turning and running as police fired several shots. He crossed the intersection onto Lewis Street while three officers chased him.
The man ran about a half block down Lewis Street before officers fired several more shots. The exact moment when he is shot is blocked by a vehicle in the video, so it’s unclear if he turned around to face officers. They appeared to handcuff him as he lay on the pavement after he was shot.
Tuesday’s incident was the fourth fatal shooting involving a Tri-City police officer in Pasco in the last six months. Officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in all three of the previous cases.
Patrick told the Herald police fired at the man as his back was turned and it looked like he was facing away from officers when he was killed.
“I really thought they were just going walk up and tackle or tase him,” he said. “But they opened fire. His back was turned.”
Patrick’s wife, Shannon, also saw the shooting. It was clear the man was running away from police when he was shot, she said. It happened in front of her young children.
“He turned around to take off running and the cops just shot him,” she said. “All he was trying to do was walk away.”
Another man, Carlos Sanchez, also witnessed the shooting from the grocery story parking lot. It looked like the man turned slightly after getting shot on Lewis Street, but that he was running away from officers when he was killed, he said.
“They started shooting and they kept on shooting him,” he said.
Police spokesman Capt. Ken Roske released few details after the shooting. He confirmed three officers were involved, though he declined to release their names or talk about who fired.
There was a confrontation in the intersection and the officers fired after the man refused to listen to their commands, Roske said.
“He (didn’t) comply with their commands as far as we know right now,” he said.
Other witnesses at the scene heard officers give the man orders to stop and drop the rock. They said the man refused to listen.
The investigation was immediately handed over the Tri-City Special Investigative Unit, a team led by a Kennewick police commander and made up of local law enforcement officials who look into fatal shootings involving police officers. All Pasco police were removed from the investigation.
The three officers involved in the shooting were taken to the police station and will be interviewed separately by investigators, Roske said. They will be placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a fatal shooting.
Police say there are several YouTube clips of the shooting and investigators will review them.
The special investigative unit looked into a total of four cases — three in Pasco and one in Kennewick — of deadly shootings involving police officers last year. The shootings occurred within months of each other and left Aaron T. Wright, 32, Rick R. Howard, 49, Brad D. Jensen, 34, and Matthew L. Stoddard, 25, dead.
The men were armed with guns, a knife or Airsoft guns in all of the cases.
The shooting Tuesday was the second in the neighborhood in less than a week.
Last Wednesday, Juan Carlos Melgoza, 42, was gunned down as he stood in the grocery store’s parking lot. Police are still searching for two suspects caught on camera at the scene.