The leader of a Latino community group in Pasco wrote a letter to top state officials saying the decision not to criminally charge three police officers in the death of a rock-throwing man is another instance of ongoing discrimination and racism in the city.
In the letter sent Friday, Felix Vargas of Consejo Latino applauded Gov. Jay Inslee for requesting that the state Attorney General’s Office review the decision by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant not to charge the officers.
But the former Army colonel who has been outspoken about the death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, dismissed Sant’s decision as “nothing more than a whitewashing.”
“The majority (of the) Latino community in Pasco has suffered for years, turning into decades, from racial bias and discrimination at the hands of mostly white authorities who continue to maintain a stranglehold on the local government,” said the letter to Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Sant on Wednesday announced the long-awaited decision about the February shooting to much criticism from activists and members of the community.
The prosecutor based his decision on the fact that the officers were acting in “good faith and without malice” when they fired 17 times at the orchard worker. Sant also told the sometimes unruly crowd at the news conference that the large rocks Zambrano-Montes threw at police constituted a deadly weapon.
Once the decision was announced, Inslee asked Ferguson’s office to review the ruling to ensure that citizens can have confidence it was correct. Ferguson agreed to begin the review immediately.
Federal agencies are conducting an independent investigation to determine if the officers broke any laws.
Sant made his decision after reviewing mountains of evidence put together during a special investigation by a team of local police.
Sant released a statement Friday saying he welcomes the review from the Attorney General’s office.
“The Attorney General’s Office will be evaluating the same evidence and state laws we considered in our evaluation,” he said in the statement. “We look forward to hearing their conclusions.”
Vargas wrote that while Consejo Latino appreciates the outside review, intervention from Inslee and Ferguson should have come much sooner.
Vargas called the investigation biased and pointed out that officers weren’t interviewed about the shooting until three months after it occurred.
“I only wish you would have reached this decision earlier,” Vargas wrote. “It was a mistake to allow local police authorities to investigate.”