PASCO, Wash. – The jury in a coroner's inquest ruled Wednesday that three police officers were justified in the shooting death of a Mexican man in 2015 that sparked protests in the agricultural community.
The six-member jury, called by Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel, decided the Pasco officers legally used deadly force against Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35.
One of three Pasco police officers who fired at Zambrano-Montes when he wouldn't stop throwing large rocks and chunks of concrete at passing cars and police said he was not shooting to kill the man. "The purpose was to stop the imminent threat," Ryan Flanagan said.
In a videotaped deposition, Flanagan said he was concerned for his own safety and that of his fellow officers, along with bystanders on that early evening in February 2015.
Flanagan, who has since left the police force, was not subpoenaed to testify in the coroner's inquest called by Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel. Excerpts of a deposition Flanagan gave almost eight weeks ago in a civil case were played for jurors Tuesday.
An inquest is a fact-finding hearing in which jurors are asked to determine what caused Zambrano-Montes' death and whether the officers used deadly force.
Officers Adrian Alaniz and Adam Wright both took the stand in the coroner's inquest on Wednesday, The Tri-City Herald reported (https://goo.gl/20lSe4).
Alaniz, who fired one of the 17 shots at Zambrano-Montes, said there was no option for the officers to let the man go from the incident.
"Our duty is to protect the public. . People call the police because they don't know what to do," Alaniz testified. "There was a possibility (Zambrano-Montes) could have come across somebody and hurt them, hit them with a rock. If I had let him walk away from that situation, I would have been just as responsible for that situation as he would be."
Zambrano-Montes was high on methamphetamine and throwing rocks at passing motorists before he was shot.
Previously, local, state and federal prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against the three officers.
The shooting was captured on video and sparked weeks of peaceful protests. The officers fired a total of 17 times at Zambrano-Montes, striking him five or six times, according to an autopsy.
Blasdel insisted on holding a coroner's inquest to ensure transparency in the facts of the shooting.