Witnesses: Unarmed Mexican immigrant killed in Washington told police officers, 'just shoot me'
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Two witnesses said an unarmed Mexican immigrant fatally shot by police in Washington state fought with an officer, threw rocks and told officers to shoot him before they opened fire, documents released Wednesday show.
Witness Miguel Estrada, who was interviewed the day after the Feb. 10 shooting in Pasco, said he saw Antonio Zambrano-Montes throw rocks at officers then run away.
In the files released by authorities, Estrada said Zambrano-Montes screamed at officers, "'If you are gonna shoot me, shoot me.'"
The death of the 35-year-old Zambrano-Montes was captured on video and sparked months of protests in the agricultural center in Eastern Washington.
A prosecutor is deciding whether the three officers who shot Zambrano-Montes should face criminal charges, a process likely to take months.
Another witness, Chris Pirtle, also told authorities Zambrano-Montes dared officers to shoot.
"He kept on throwing the rocks, and the cop was telling him, 'Hey, put down the rock,'" Pirtle said.
Zambrano-Montes didn't comply, witnesses said.
"He just kept telling him, 'Shoot me, kill me,'" Pirtle said.
The newly-released data included video from witnesses and raw audio files.
In one audio file, witness Benjamin Patrick told investigators he yelled at officers after Zambrano-Montes was shot.
"Why did you just shoot him?" Patrick said he shouted. "He was trying to get away. What are you guys doing?"
Patrick later said during questioning he wanted to apologize to the officers for his outburst. He did not explain why.
Authorities say Zambrano-Montes had been throwing rocks at passing motorists and police, and a stun gun failed to subdue him before he was shot.
Cellphone video showed three officers chasing Zambrano-Montes before shooting him as he turned around.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant issued a statement with the document release, saying he was still deciding if the three officers would be charged with any crimes.
"The right decision is more important than a quick decision," Sant said about the possibility of filing charges.
One officer, Ryan Flanagan, has resigned in a move his lawyer said was unrelated to the shooting. The other two, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz, remain on paid leave. They have not commented publicly on the shooting.
In an interview with investigators from early May, Flanagan said Zambrano-Montes repeatedly threw large rocks and objects at him and the other officers.
"Every time he would throw a rock, or both of them, he would pick up two more," Flanagan said, according to a transcript released by authorities. "It wasn't like he was gonna retreat or anything."
Flanagan said he told dispatchers, "We are running out of options ...We're gonna have to increase our level of force."
Alaniz, in an interview with investigators in late April, said deploying a Taser and using verbal commands didn't stop Zambrano-Montes.
Alaniz said the man said, "Kill me, kill me."
"He's assaulted multiple uniformed police officers. I believe at this point that my last option is to use my firearm," Alaniz said, according to the transcript.
Patrick, one of the witnesses, told investigators he saw Zambrano-Montes pick up what appeared to be a dirt clod and throw it at officers.
Patrick recalled two bursts of gunfire from the officers, even though he said Zambrano-Montes "wasn't acting very violent at that time."
Just before the second round of shots, the officers yelled at Zambrano-Montes to put down the rock, he said.
"He looked like he was trying to put it down," Patrick said.
An independent autopsy commissioned by attorney Charles Herrmann, who represents Zambrano-Montes' parents, showed the man suffered seven entrance wounds, including one to his buttocks and one to the back of his right arm. The other wounds were in the front.
The officers fired a total of 17 shots.
Patrick said he was upset by the shooting because it did not appear the officers were in danger. "I think they could have done something else," Patrick said.
Zambrano-Montes appeared to be high or drunk, he said, noting that he recognized Zambrano-Montes as a regular in the neighborhood.
Attorney George Trejo Jr., who represents Zambrano-Montes' estranged wife and daughter, said the prosecutor's decision seems simple.
"This is not a complex case, yet the decision on this case continues to be delayed," Trejo said. "The decision to charge the officers either with first- or second-degree murder should be made now."
In other witness accounts, Mark Faith said he saw a policeman and a barefoot man fighting then breaking apart from each other. Zambrano-Montes then picked up some rocks or dirt clods and threw them.
Faith said Zambrano-Montes did not seem to respond to commands from officers.
"He looked like he was mental, or he was on something," Faith said.
Witness Idalia Hinojosa Marin said Zambrano-Montes seemed angry after officers arrived on the scene.
Veronica Rivera said Zambrano-Montes was not deterred by Tasers.
"Three cops were there, just on him, and they were all, 'Just shoot him, just shoot him!'" Rivera said. "And so the guy was like walking, you know, with his back to them, and all they did was just, bam-bam-bam-bam. Just shot him down."
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