Three Washington officers who shot and killed a Mexican farmworker last February “did not violate Department policies and procedures,” an internal investigation from the Pasco Police Department found Wednesday.
Officers Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz will return to duty immediately, the Pasco Police Department said in an emailed statement. The third officer involved in the fatal shooting, Ryan Flanagan, has since left the the department.
“We have exhaustively reviewed this incident, and my decision to return the officers to duty was founded on the determination that their actions were consistent with Department policies and procedures,” Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger said in a statement that accompanied the release of the internal investigation findings.
The fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old former orchard worker, by police officers on Feb. 10 in Pasco was captured on a widely seen video. The killing sparked protests in the small southeastern Washington town. The Mexican government condemned the shooting, calling it a “disproportionate use of lethal force.”
According to the internal investigation reports, officials found that citizen statements corroborated those made by the officers involved; the officers “exhibited conciliatory demeanor as long as they were able to do so safely”; less-lethal force was deployed with no obvious effect on Zambrano-Montes; and that the deadly force used by the officers was “consistent” with department policies.
The internal criminal investigation of the shooting was completed by the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit, which was comprised of investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies, excluding Pasco Police Department. An additional investigation and report was also completed by Police Policy Studies Council of Spofford, New Hampshire.
Rick Rios, chairman of Consejo Latino, a group calling for police reform, said the investigation’s findings came as no surprise.
“The police investigated themselves and when they were finished they cleared themselves of all wrongdoing,” Rios said. “No one cares that they sprayed 17 bullets into a crowded intersection to kill an unarmed man. This is the nature of policing in this country.”
The police say the three Pasco officers encountered Zambrano-Montes in a supermarket parking lot following complaints that he’d lobbed rocks at cars and trucks. In the ensuing confrontation, Zambrano-Montes allegedly threw stones, hitting two officers.
The video, recorded on a phone by a witness inside a car, shows Zambrano-Montes running through an intersection and from the police as the officers fire several shots. The officers then give chase across the street and, in a hail of gunfire, shoot at Zambrano-Montes as he slows and faces them with his hands held about waist high.
The police described Zambrano-Montes’s behavior as “threatening” and said he was likely holding a rock when he was killed.
Police fired a total of 17 rounds at Zambrano-Montes. An autopsy report later found that Zambrano-Montes suffered seven gunshot wounds. It also found the presence of methamphetamine in Zambrano-Montes’ system.
The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office announced earlier this month that they would not be bringing criminal charges against the officers involved.