A rally against police brutality drew nearly a thousand people not far away this past weekend, after officers had shot dead a Hispanic man accused of throwing rocks last Tuesday in Pasco.
In a case many are comparing to the death of Eric Garner in New York, cellphone footage shows Antonio Zambrano-Montes, after reportedly ignoring commands from police to stop throwing rocks and shrugging off an initial Taser attack, somehow surviving an initial hail of bullets to run, pursued on foot for a short distance, before turning and being gunned down, unarmed, by three officers.
The 35-year-old orchard worker had a history with local police. In January of last year an officer responding to a report of a man running around hitting cars with a broom wrestled with Zambrano-Montes, who reportedly tried to yank the officer’s gun out of its holster. He later admitted to using methamphetamines and pled guilty to a charge of assault in the third degree.
Whether or not the officers involved in last week’s shooting were aware of that at the time is another question. One that, unlike the case in New York, we may actually learn the answer to.
An inquest has been ordered by the county coroner for a six-civilian jury to determine the manner and cause of death, as well as whether the shooting was justified. One significant difference between the two cases is the attitude of transparency with which officials seem to be approaching this one.
One thing that is similar to the Garner case — other than the incident being caught on cellphone video — is that throwing rocks, as with selling loose cigarettes, doesn’t call for a death sentence.
The U.S. is supposed to have a retributive, “punishment fits the crime” type of justice system — a concept that hasn’t changed all that much since Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye” nearly 4,000 years ago. This is the fourth such shooting death by police since this summer in the farming community of 68,000. If police are resorting to deadly force that often, then some part of the system isn’t working properly.