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The family of a Mexican farmworker killed recently during a clash with police in Pasco, Washington, is withdrawing a $25 million claim filed against the city.
The decision was announced over the weekend by the new attorney for the widow and daughters of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, whose death on Feb. 10 sparked a wave of protests in several cities in Washington state.
In a letter addressed to the city of Pasco, the widow and daughters’ new counsel, Seattle-based attorney Charles Herrmann, said his office will file a new claim in the next few weeks “when all the evidence is weighed and measured,” according to excerpts posted by the Seattle Times.
Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot during a street chase by three officers after he started throwing rocks at them. A video that has since gone viral shows police chasing him and then, as he turns around, shots ring out.
While the shooting is under investigation, police have said he hit two officers with rocks and had refused to put down other stones. They also said a stun gun failed to subdue him.
Herrmann told The Tri-City Herald in an email that the $25 million claim was premature and the case needs more investigation into the police department's dealing with people who are mentally ill or don't speak English. That claim was filed Feb. 13, just three days after the killing.
He also said the widow, Teresa de Jesus Meraz-Ruiz, “had no knowledge that her former attorneys were filing a formal claim against the City of Pasco, let alone the amount they would be demanding.”
The original representatives of the family, Carrazco Law, of Tustin, Calif., and George Paul Trejo Jr., of Yakima, told the Seattle Times the allegation is “entirely false.” According to Trejo, the family was perfectly aware of the claim and had even agreed on its distribution — $10 million would go to each daughter and $5 million to the widow.
The Tri-City Herald says Herrmann emailed the Pasco city clerk saying he wants to withdraw the claim filed by the previous lawyer. A claim usually leads to a lawsuit.
The case has cast a spotlight on the ethnic makeup of working-class Pasco, an apple-, grape- and potato-growing center about 220 miles from Seattle that has more than doubled in size since 2000.
The city is more than 55 percent Hispanic; many members of the community flocked here from Mexico to work in the fields and at food-processing plants. Starting in the 1960s and '70s, many of those migrant workers settled down here. Pasco's modest downtown is now lined with Mexican restaurants, bakeries and clothing stores, and city business is conducted in English and Spanish.
The police force of 71 uniformed officers has just 15 Hispanics, and only one person on the seven-member City Council is Hispanic.
The AP contributed to this report.