Family of slain Washington state farmworker seeks $25 million in U.S. lawsuit

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 03, 2015 8:05 PM

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Relatives of an unarmed Mexican immigrant farmworker who was shot dead this year by patrolmen in Washington state filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday seeking more than $25 million in damages.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane alleged that three officers erratically fired 17 times at Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, as he ran from them at a busy intersection in the southeastern city of Pasco on Feb. 10.

Police have said he was shot after pelting the officers with rocks. The officers have not been charged.

"Antonio Zambrano was unjustifiably and wrongly shot and killed by the three Defendant City of Pasco police officers, denying him his civil rights as protected by federal law," family attorney George Trejo wrote in the complaint that named Pasco, its police department and police chief and the three officers as defendants.

The shooting reflected a pattern of unconstitutional practices, excessive force and poor training of the city's officers, the complaint added.

As a result of the family's loss, estranged widow Teresa De Jesus Meraz and her young children are due damages in excess of $25 million, according to the complaint.

Last month, members of Zambrano-Montes' family filed a separate $4.76 million wrongful death claim against the city.

The killing was among a series of killings across the United States that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over their use of force, particularly against minorities. It prompted demonstrations in Pasco, which has a Latino majority.

City Manager Dave Zabell said in a statement that Pasco did not comment on pending litigation.

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Sant said the office was still reviewing whether criminal charges are warranted against the officers.

"Our focus remains on whether a crime was committed and appropriate charges if any," he said in an email to Reuters.

Police said two stun guns failed to subdue Zambrano-Montes during a standoff, and investigators concluded Zambrano-Montes was "likely in possession of a rock" during a second volley of police bullets and had used methamphetamine.

"He was trying to physically seriously injure or kill us. He wasn't backing off at all," Officer Ryan Flanagan, who has since resigned, told an investigator.

Video of the incident showed Zambrano-Montes fleeing from pursuing officers before turning to face them and being gunned down.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Peter Cooney)