Transparency in Pasco

Videos taken by locals show a man fleeing from three police officers who open fire at him. The man, supposedly armed with a stone, stops before the police shoots him repeatedly at close range. Witnesses who happened to be in this busy street in Pasco, Washington, counted up to 13 shots.

Antonio Zambrano-Montes was a field hand with a history of drug problems. According to people who knew him, he was depressed because of a family separation. It is hard to know why he was throwing stones at cars on the afternoon of February 10, but we do know that there was no need for three cops to shoot him point-blank in order to control him.

Some people compare this incident to the one occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, that caused the death of 18 year-old Michael Brown. There are similarities and differences.

Like Ferguson, Pasco is a city that has undergone demographic changes which are not reflected in the police force. While 56% of its population is Latino, only one of its 7 council members ? who are not chosen by district ? is Hispanic. The city’s Police Department has 68,000 members, of which only 20% are Latino.

On the other hand, the difference is that there are several videos of the incident, so there is no doubt about what happened.

The community’s reaction was also very different. Protests have been peaceful; there has been not destruction or looting. That may be the reason why this incident has not received national attention.

Regardless, we believe that the Department of Justice and the federal authorities must follow the case closely to ensure transparency in the investigation.

Local civic group Consejo Latino (Hispanic Council) had already warned that there was a “gap in communication” between officers who speak only English and the Spanish-speaking community. Two weeks before the incident, “the chief of police looked at us in the face and said: ‘We don’t have a problem'”, said Rick Ríos, from Consejo Latino, about how the Police responded to the community’s concern.

What happened to Zambrano-Montes shows that the Pasco police do have a serious problem. Their incapacity to recognize it is the best argument to push federal action forward