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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 12, 2015 at 12:38 PM

Officer in Pasco shooting was once named in excessive-force lawsuit

One of the three officers involved in Tuesday’s shooting death of a homeless man on a busy downtown sidewalk was a defendant in a federal civil-rights lawsuit the city settled for $100,000, according to court records.

The lawsuit claimed Pasco officers were inadequately trained in the use of force and how to respond to street confrontations.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, stemmed from an incident on May 21, 2009, in which officers Ryan Flanagan and Zachary Fairley stopped a woman, Maria Davila-Marquez,  while responding to a complaint of a disturbance outside a home.

The lawsuit said Davila-Marquez, 30, was walking to pick up her children after completing her shift at the Pasco Tyson Foods plant. The description of the suspect in the disturbance was of a Latina teenager in shorts, a sweatshirt and with streaked hair.

“They only commonality was that my client was a woman and a Latina,”  Davila-Marquez’s Yakima lawyer, Vito de la Cruz, told The Seattle Times on Thursday.

Even so, the officers stopped her alongside the road and questioned her. Davila-Marquez speaks only limited English and eventually asked for an interpreter in hopes of sorting out what she believed was a misunderstanding, he said.

That, said de la Cruz, prompted a violent response by the officers, who the lawsuit alleged “ridiculed her,” then handcuffed her and bent her over the hood of a patrol car, pressing her cheek onto the scorching hot metal. Davila-Marquez suffered second-degree burns on her face as a result and is scarred, he said.

The officers held her, he said, until a witness to the earlier disturbance came by and told the officers they had the wrong woman. Although Davila-Marquez was released, the officers cited her for hindering police. Those charges were dismissed, de la Cruz said.

Neither officer was disciplined, he said.

A telephone call to Pasco police for comment was not immediately returned.

Davila-Marquez filed a federal lawsuit in March 2012. Following discovery, the city settled for $100,000 and the lawsuit was dismissed in July 2013.

Flanagan, a nine-year Pasco police veteran, has been identified as one of three officers who shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who reportedly had been throwing rocks at cars. Police say he also threw rocks at the officers, striking two of them.

The officers responded with two volleys of gunfire, killing Zambrano-Montes. The shooting was witnessed by more than a dozen people, and graphic cell-phone video of the shooting was posted on social media.

“I was horrified when I saw that video,” said de la Cruz. “But I have to say when I heard that Flanagan was involved, I was not surprised.”

As with his client, he said, it appeared to him that the force used in Tuesday’s shooting “was excessive and unwarranted.”

De La Cruz said his lawsuit, which was resolved after more than a year of litigation and discovery, alleged the Pasco Police Department “has engaged in a pattern and practice of not providing sufficient training to law enforcement to service a heavily Hispanic population,” including inadequate training in the use of force.

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

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