Coroner Dan Blasdel still plans to hold an inquest into the fatal Pasco police shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes despite Wednesday’s announcement that criminal charges will not be filed against three officers.
An inquest could help restore trust in the Pasco community and ensure the special investigation into the shooting by a team of local police was independent and thorough, Blasdel told the Herald.
“With all the bad press the Pasco Police Department has had and (Prosecutor) Shawn Sant (previously) being in law enforcement, I think there is some distrust in the community and also with the SIU investigation,” he said. “This would help clear the air and help rebuild trust.”
Blasdel is hopeful that he will be able to hold the inquest at the TRAC in Pasco. There have apparently been scheduling conflicts at the Franklin County Courthouse.
Blasdel said the inquest could start as early as October.
If Sant had charged the officers, Blasdel said he would have called off the inquest to allow the case to play out in court.
An inquest — which Blasdel has the power to call as the elected county coroner — would give a jury of six the opportunity to determine the cause and manner in death in the case. The jury also would make a recommendation as to whether the shooting was justified.
Sant could participate in the inquest and present evidence to the jury, though it’s unclear if he will.
He said during Wednesday’s press conference that he doesn’t see the need for the coroner’s inquest as investigators have long known who caused Zambrano-Montes’ death. “What new information is going to develop from an inquest?”
Inquests are relatively rare for the area and there have only been a handful called in the last decade. The Zambrano-Montes inquest is expected to last at least two weeks and may lead to dozens of witnesses being called.
There has been debate over the past few months whether an inquest is necessary in the case.
Sant and lawyers representing Zambrano-Montes’ family members have been outspoken about their opinions that an inquest is not needed.
Sant has stated several times that an inquest will not help to provide new information, and that it is clear how Zambrano-Montes died and who is responsible for his death.
The shooting was captured on cellphone video and Sant has made the special investigation public on a county website.