A massive report detailing the investigation by local authorities into the fatal police shooting of a Pasco man earlier this year has been turned over to prosecutors for review, a process that may take the entire summer.
Although it likely will be months before Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant announces a decision about whether to charge three officers involved in the death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, the report is expected to be released to the public in the next several weeks.
The report, which was put together by the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit, will be posted to the Franklin County website. Sant said it contains thousands of pages of documents, 1,500 slides from cellphone videos of the incident, more than 80 witness interviews and other information related to the investigation.
During a Thursday press conference, Sant said a murder trial he is prosecuting will not delay the review process, which a team of deputy prosecutors is assisting with.
Sant does not feel pressure to make a swift decision about whether to charge the officers — like in other parts of the country faced with officer-involved deaths — and would rather ensure his office conduct an in-depth review of the case, he said.
“A thorough review will be conducted on this case and while our goal will be to expedite a review as quickly as possible, we will not sacrifice a quality review for speed,” said Sant as he stood in front of a row of TV cameras at the Franklin County Courthouse in Pasco.
The report is in the hands of prosecutors nearly four months after Zambrano-Montes, 35, a Mexican national who was a farm worker in the area, was shot at 17 times by the Pasco officers. Zambrano-Montes was shot five to seven times after police say he hurled rocks at them.
The Feb. 10 shooting occurred in a crowded intersection near Fiesta Foods in Pasco and was caught on cellphone video, which has since circulated worldwide. The highly-publicized case has drawn outrage from across the country and led to months of peaceful protests in the city.
Pasco Officers Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz have been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. The police department is conducting an internal review of the entire incident.
The shooting has led to harsh criticism of the department and on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would be providing specific training to the police force through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Similar training has been offered to cities deemed to be in “crisis” like Ferguson, Mo., Seattle and New Orleans.
Sant does not anticipate any federal organization stepping in to take over the case, which has been called for by area community groups and leaders.
The report has been sent to the FBI and possibly the DOJ, Sant said. It’s protocol for Pasco police to get a copy of the report.
Sant noted that he would have “liked to have this case much sooner,” but commended the SIU for its hard and tedious work. The report contained four binders that were about three inches thick.
Sant and prosecutors plan to meet with the Zambrano family soon to discuss the investigation, which is common in homicide cases, the prosecutor said. They have been in contact with attorneys representing the family.
A decision on whether the shooting was justified is likely to be delayed by an inquest expected to be called by Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, who was at the press conference. Blasdel confirmed he plans to move forward with the inquest.
The inquest, which is rare for the area, will allow a jury of six to make a recommendation on the cause of death in the case and whether the shooting was justified.
Sant will review the jury’s recommendation when considering whether to file charges.
The review will focus on whether each officer used necessary force when they opened fire on Zambrano-Montes, Sant said.
“We will have to determine what each one’s responsibility is,” he said. “We will have to look at all of those factors.”