Group Wants Special Prosecutor In Washington Police Killing Of Farmworker

03/04/2015 11:44 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2015

SEATTLE, March 4 (Reuters) - A Hispanic advocacy group has called for a special prosecutor to be brought in to handle the fatal police shooting in Washington state of a Mexican farmworker who pelted officers with rocks before trying to flee.

The killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old unemployed apple picker from Mexico's Michoacan state, sparked protests accusing police in the city of Pasco of overly aggressive tactics in dealing with Hispanic residents.

Consejo Latino said in a statement that Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant's working relationship with the investigating unit could affect any decision to press charges.

The group asked Sant to request state Attorney General Robert Ferguson to appoint an out-of-area special prosecutor to take over. It said Sant appeared to side with police during news conferences on the investigation.

"Your ability to make any charging decision is compromised by your apparent working relationship with the [Special Investigation Unit]," Consejo Latino said in a letter mailed to Sant that was dated Tuesday.

"For the sake of the community, we believe it is critical that another prosecutor, who can be seen as credible and neutral, assume control in this case immediately," the letter added.

The Hispanic community makes up the majority of the population in Pasco, in Washington state's agricultural heartland.

The prosecutor's office could not be immediately reached to respond to the allegations.

The FBI and a U.S. attorney in Washington state have said they are monitoring the probe, which is being handled by the special investigative unit that excludes Pasco police.

The family of Zambrano-Montes has already urged the U.S. Justice Department to take over the investigation into the slaying, which the Mexican government has condemned as a disproportionate use of lethal force.

Consejo Latino's plea echoes calls to replace local prosecutors in places like Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, where officials declined to press charges against white police officers who used lethal force against unarmed African-American suspects last year. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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