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  • Writer's pictureOrina Ontiri

Pasco police shooting: Trayvon Martin lawyer takes up case in push for federal investigation

Benjamin Crump will act on behalf of parents of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican man shot dead by police in Washington

Agapita Montes-Rivera with her daughter, Rose Elena Zambrano-Montes and attorney Benjamin Crump outside the funeral home where her son’s body was being kept in Pasco. Photograph: Nicholas K. Geranios/AP

The high-profile civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, will now act on behalf of the parents of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican national shot dead by police in Pasco, Washington, strengthening the calls for a federal investigation into the death.

Crump told the Guardian that Zambrano-Montes’s mother, 60-year-old Agapita Montes-Rivera, who has travelled from Mexico following the shooting, fainted when she saw her son’s body for the first time on Monday afternoon.

Footage of the moment Zambrano-Montes is shot dead in a volley of bullets by three police officers as he appears to be running away with his hands raised, was uploaded to Youtube after the shooting on 10 February. Zambrano-Montes, who had been living in Pasco for around 10 years, had been throwing rocks at traffic, according to a police account. The incident has been condemned by the Mexican foreign ministry who have labelled the use of force as disproportionate. Crump told the Guardian he believed that the shooting represented an “intersection between what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson [who was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson] and Eric Garner in Staten Island [who was killed after being placed in a banned chokehold by police]”.

“The young people are protesting because they believe that he [Zambrano-Montes] put his hands up … just like Michael Brown did in Ferguson, and then you have the video, like you have in Eric Garner’s matter, where you see the last few, graphic moments of his life come to an end,” Crump said.

The incident is currently being examined by a Special Investigative Unit (SIU) comprising 15 officers from four neighbouring police forces. The SIU has provided scant information on the status of the investigation, and is currently directing all media inquiries to a weekly press conference due to be held again on Thursday. The FBI are currently monitoring the SIU investigation and the Franklin County coroner has pledged to instigate an inquest into the death after the SIU has concluded, meaning evidence will be seen by a jury of six who will make a non-binding decision on the lawfulness of the killing.

Crump said Zambrano-Montes’s family would be calling on the federal Justice Department to instigate a “complete and thorough” investigation into the case. “They want the truth to be shown,” he said.

Local activists in the Hispanic community met with Justice Department representatives over the weekend.

Felix Vargas, chairman of the Consejo Latino group in Pasco, a majority Hispanic city, described the meeting as “very, very productive”. Vargas told the Guardian he had met with a DOJ “conciliations specialist” who had vowed to bring activists and the Pasco police chief together for mediation talks later in the week.

Vargas, who has written to the Justice Department requesting a federal investigation into the case, said he was assured his letter was the “subject of high-level discussions” in the federal attorney general’s office over the weekend. He planned to meet with the US attorney’s office in eastern Washington later in the week.

Zambrano-Montes’s death has sparked widespread protests in Pasco and smaller protests in Seattle, which have remained peaceful. Pasco police have noticeably stayed clear of the protests, with both community members and the Zambrano-Montes family calling for calm.

Global Radio Network

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