SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Police officers did not violate policies and procedures when they shot an orchard worker to death in Washington state as he threw rocks at them in Pasco, according to an independent review released Wednesday.
The review by the Police Policy Studies Council of Spofford, New Hampshire, determined that Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, controlled much of his interaction with the officers, and their use of deadly force was consistent with Pasco Police Department policy.
"We have exhaustively reviewed this incident," Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger said. "We will also continue to work in partnership with the community to accomplish our mission of reducing the fear of crime while affording dignity and respect to every individual."
Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks at officers when he was chased and shot numerous times at a busy intersection. An autopsy showed Zamabrano-Montes had meth in his system at the time of the shooting. He also had a history of mental illness and previous interactions with police.
Metzger said officers Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz will return to work immediately. Another officer involved in the incident, Ryan Flanagan, has since left the department.
Investigators have found the officers fired 17 times, striking Zambrano-Montes at least five times.
The Franklin County prosecutor previously determined that he would not charge the officers with any crime.
The Feb. 10 shooting of Zambrano-Montes, a Mexican national, was captured on cellphone video that went viral and sparked weeks of peaceful protests in Pasco.
"It is unfortunate the PPD has endorsed a policy that permits their officers to gun down unarmed individuals instead of subduing them with non-lethal force," said George Trejo Jr., an attorney who represents Zambrano-Montes' estranged wife and two daughters in a lawsuit against the city.
In reaching his decision on reinstating the officers, Metzger said he reviewed the report of a special investigative team made up of area police agencies, the Pasco department's internal review, and an analysis by the independent expert hired by the department.
The review also found:
—Citizen statements corroborated observations by the officers of aggressive behavior and threat posed by Zambrano-Montes.
—Officers acted calmly as long as they were able.
—Non-lethal force was deployed with no obvious physical effect.
—Deadly force was used consistent with policies in the Pasco Police Department Policy Manual.
The police department has undertaken reforms in the wake of the shooting, including inviting the U.S. Department of Justice to provide additional training for officers regarding diverse communities; expanding crisis intervention training to more officers; and holding regular meetings with clergy, specifically Hispanic churches, to improve relations. The department is also seeking more bilingual applicants.
Citing several lawsuits filed in the case, police and city officials declined additional comment on the internal investigation.
Federal investigators are also looking into the shooting to determine if any federal laws were violated. The state of Washington is reviewing the prosecutor's decision against filing charges.
The case is being watched by the Mexican government, which earlier expressed disappointment with the decision not to file charges.