Two police officers who fatally shot a rock-throwing Mexican farmworker in Washington state earlier this year did not violate their department’s policy and will return to duty immediately, the city of Pasco said on Wednesday.
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, was shot by three patrolmen during a confrontation on Feb. 10 caught on video at a busy intersection in the small city, 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Seattle.
His death triggered protests by several hundred people in Pasco, which has a large Hispanic community, and his family and civil rights groups called for a federal probe into his killing.
They have said Zambrano-Montes spoke little English and had wrestled with drug abuse and other personal issues.
“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,” George Trejo, an attorney representing the man’s family, said in a statement. “Unfortunately given the atmosphere within the police force, it isn’t surprising.”
Mexico’s government has condemned the fatal shooting as a disproportionate use of lethal force.
It was among a series of fatal incidents across the United States that have put law enforcement agencies under scrutiny over their use of force, particularly against people of color.
In the video filmed by a motorist that was widely watched online, the orchard worker from Mexico’s Michoacan state is seen running from the officers before they open fire multiple times.
Police said two stun guns failed to subdue Zambrano-Montes, who died after being hit by 17 shots.
The city’s statement said Pasco Police Chief Robert Metzger decided the responding officers had acted appropriately after he reviewed internal investigative reports and consulted an outside expert. It added he would return Officers Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz to duty, effective immediately.
The third officer involved in the incident, Ryan Flanagan, has left the police department, the statement said.
“Their actions were consistent with Department policies and procedures,” Metzger said in the statement.
Police have said Alaniz told investigators that Zambrano-Montes, after being ordered repeatedly to drop the rocks he was throwing at the officers, yelled at them in Spanish: “No, kill me … kill me.”
The family has said audio from the incident does not support that account, and has argued that none of the officers were in grave danger.
Friends said Zambrano-Montes had spent time in a homeless shelter before his death.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)