Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New York Times: Pasco shooting is a "Ferguson" moment for Latinos

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 1:13 PM

Last week, seconds before 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by Pasco police, he turned toward them and swung his hands up into the air. 

His death and apparent surrender were caught on a 22-second video (see below), uploaded to YouTube last Wednesday. The footage, which quickly spread over social media, shows Zambrano-Montes running from three policemen before stopping, turning around and raising his arms. Police say he had been hurling rocks at cars and officers. 

Zambrano-Montes' death — the fourth fatal police shooting in Pasco in six months — has triggered large protests, an internal investigation, a rare inquest by the country coroner, a $25 million lawsuit, and condemnation from the Mexican consul in Seattle. Local Latino leaders are asking the Department of Justice to investigate.

His death has also drawn comparisons to the police killing of Michael Brown, the black teenager who was shot in Ferguson, Mo. last summer. Here's how the New York Times has described the case in Pasco, where Latinos, like in Ferguson, face inequality and under-representation within city government and the local police force:
But here in Pasco, a city of 68,000 that is 56 percent Hispanic, the public killing has pierced the immigrant enclave, spurring protests that have attracted hundreds and highlighting a division between the city’s increasingly Latino populace and its power structure — the police, the city government — which remains largely white.

While many Hispanics have found work and stable, if not particularly affluent, lives here, the killing has drawn attention to their lack of clout. And, as with blacks in Ferguson, it has intensified feelings among Hispanics that they remain second-tier residents, despite their deep roots here, defined by the many Latino shops that now dominate the main thoroughfare, Lewis Street.

“They had him like a deer, hunting him,” said Maria Paniagua, 41, a resident with six children. “What happens when one of my kids gets in a jam and runs. Will they shoot him down?”

Though Latino workers have been here since at least the 1960s, attracted by jobs gathering fruit and asparagus in the region’s vast fields, few have moved into law enforcement or city government. Of the city’s 68 officers, 14 are Hispanic. A dozen officers speak Spanish fluently, and some residents cite language barriers that complicate interactions with the police. The City Council has one Latino member. The five-member school board, which oversees a system that is 70 percent Latino, typically has one or two Latino members, but this year has none.

Zambrano-Montes was raised in Michoacán, Mexico, and moved to the United States about a decade ago to work in the orchards. He couldn't speak English and likely didn't understand the officers' commands. According to the Tri-City Herald, he suffered from depression after a string of bad luck and had a history of troubling behavior. Last year, for instance, he was convicted of assault after another confrontation with police in which he was caught hitting cars with a broom: 
Police had been called to North Eighth Avenue and West Bonneville Street at 10:49 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2014, for reports of a man walking around and hitting cars with a broom. Zambrano-Montes was found “making a commotion” on the front porch of a North Seventh Avenue home, according to court documents.

He picked up a rocking chair and tried to throw it at Officer Adam Brewster, then grabbed a mailbox and post and threw those. Brewster had to duck to avoid being hit in the head.

Zambrano-Montes ran from Brewster and Officer Jeffrey Cobb, then turned around, grabbed onto Brewster’s belt and put his hand around the officer’s service pistol, documents said. Brewster tried head-butting Zambrano-Montes in the right temple to incapacitate him, but it had no visible effect.

Zambrano-Montes was taken to the ground and continued to struggle with the two officers while grabbing onto Brewster’s pistol in an attempt to get it out of the holster, documents said. Cobb then shot him with a Taser and they were able to handcuff him.

He was taken to Lourdes Medical Center, where he reportedly admitted in the emergency room that he’d been using methamphetamines, documents said.

He pleaded guilty in June, acknowledging that his actions were not in self-defense, and was sentenced to six months in county jail. The standard range for the crime is three to nine months.

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Deanna Pan

Deanna Pan is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers social justice, state politics and health care. In her cover stories, she's written about mass shooting survivors, NGRI patients and honey bees...