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February 13, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Family of man shot by Pasco police files $25 million claim

The widow and daughters of the man killed by Pasco police Tuesday have filed a $25 million claim against the city.

The claim was filed with the city clerk’s office Friday, even as police and Franklin County prosecutors appeared at a news conference to confirm that Antonio Zambrano-Montes was not armed with a firearm or a knife when he was shot and killed Tuesday by three Pasco police officers after confronting him for throwing rocks at a busy downtown intersection on Tuesday.

The claim was filed by the Trejo Law Firm of Yakima and the Carrazco Law Firm of Irvine, Calif., on behalf of Teresa de Jesus Meraz-Ruiz, the widow of the 35-year-old Zambrano-Montes, and their two daughters, ages 15 and 12.

The claim alleges the officers used unnecessary, excessive force when they shot him. Meraz-Ruiz is a resident of Atwater, Calif., according to the claim.

“At the time he was shot and killed,” the claim alleges, “Mr. Zambrano-Montes posed no danger to the three officers, such that they were justified in the use of deadly force, resulting in his immediate death.”

Even so, the claim says, police handcuffed him as he lay bleeding.

The claim serves as notice to the city that the family intends to file a lawsuit if the claim is not settled. The city has 60 days to respond.

At the news conference, Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin, speaking on behalf of a multiagency Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigating the shooting, said it will focus on whether the 35-year-old Zambrano-Montes was holding a rock at the time the shots were fired.

An autopsy conducted Friday shows Zambrano-Montes died of gunshot wounds to the torso. The manner of death was found to be homicide, although that designation in no way implies whether or not the shooting was justified, said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

Police did not release the number of times Zambrano-Montes was shot.

The videotaped shooting of Zambrano-Montes, who had reportedly been throwing rocks at police and cars, has raised numerous questions.

More than a dozen people apparently witnessed Tuesday’s rush-hour confrontation between Zambrano-Montes, who had gotten out of jail on Monday, and three officers. The officers had tried to arrest him after witnesses reported he was throwing rocks at cars outside the Fiesta Foods supermarket in downtown Pasco.

At least one witness posted a graphic cellphone video on YouTube showing Zambrano-Montes being pursued across a street by the officers and then collapsing to the sidewalk under a hail of police gunfire. Witnesses said Zambrano-Montes was carrying a rock and was walking away when the officers fired as many as 13 rounds.

Speaking during the news conference, Lattin warned that the SIU investigation into the shooting “can take weeks, and sometimes months.” Although the SIU is made up of representatives of various law-enforcement agencies, including Pasco police, he said the investigation is “unbiased, it is separate.”

The SIU, which was formed in 2010, has conducted 10 such investigations into officer-involved shootings, Lattin said.

“We are the best at investigating deaths, homicides,” he said. “And that’s what this is, a homicide.”

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Officer-involved shooting, Pasco


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