Mexican man killed by Washington state police was not shot in back, official says

Feb. 25, 2015: Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin talks to reporters.

Feb. 25, 2015: Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin talks to reporters.  (AP)

A task force spokesman said Wednesday that three Washington state officers involved in the shooting death of an unarmed Mexican man fired 17 shots, including several that struck the man, but none that hit him in the back.

Five or six bullets did strike Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin, a spokesman for the task force, said at a news conference. However, the autopsy results are still pending and he could not be more specific as to where the former orchard worker was hit.

"There were no shots in the back," Lattin said.

The regional law enforcement task force is investigating the shooting death of Zambrano-Montes, which occurred Feb. 10. Protesters have called for a federal probe into the shooting.

Video captured by witnesses of the shooting shows the man running away from officers. As police draw closer to Zambrano-Montes, he stops turns and faces them. Multiple “pops” are heard and then he falls to the ground.

Zambrano-Montes was killed at a busy intersection in Pasco. His death sparked two weeks of protests in the majority-Hispanic agricultural city.

Authorities said the Mexican immigrant was throwing rocks at passing vehicles and later at officers. The Franklin County coroner has ordered an inquest into his death.

Lattin said a rock was found next Zambrano-Montes’ body, but no gun or knife. Lattin also said the investigation will be thorough and fair.

"We're not here to cover up for anybody," he told reporters.

Lattin said the special investigations unit was awaiting final toxicology reports before sending its final report to the prosecutor. The three officers involved are not going to be interviewed until the preliminary work of the investigation is complete.

About 100 mourners gathered at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Pasco on Wednesday for Zambrano-Montes' funeral Mass. His body was to be returned to his small hometown in a rural part of Michoacan, Mexico, the Tri-City Herald reported.

Critics of the shooting continued to call for a federal investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union has also asked the federal government to intervene.

Zambrano-Montes’ death is the fourth officer-involved killing in less than a year in Pasco. Officers were exonerated in the first three cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report