Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger said at a Wednesday news conference that Zambrano-Montes had rocks but he was unsure whether the man was armed beyond that or if any other weapons were found on the scene, explaining that the investigation is now under the control of an independent entity, the Tri-City Special Investigations Unit.
Per department policy the three officers involved in the shooting — Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz — have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.
The video shows Zambrano-Montes throwing a rock at a police car, and an officer firing what appears to be a Taser at him before he runs into the intersection. Officers chase him, and he goes down after being shot multiple times. It’s unclear whether Zambrano-Montes had clearly turned to face the officers before he was shot.
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According to a police statement, officers saw Zambrano-Montes “threatening the public” and they used verbal commands and “low level force” to try to bring him under control, to no avail. Police said two officers were struck by rocks, and one of the rocks thrown was softball-sized.
Then, according to the police account, Zambrano-Montes “refused to follow the officers’ commands to put down the rocks and to surrender” and officers fired a Taser at him. The “threatening behavior” continued and police ultimately shot him with their guns.
Metzger offered few other details and said he planned to meet with the family of Zambrano-Montes.
“We always stand behind our officers until they’re proven” that they did something wrong, Metzger said. “If the officers are wrong, then they will be dealt with accordingly.”
Numerous witnesses have questioned whether the man posed a threat and why police would fire in such a busy intersection. Some on the scene told the Tri-City Herald that the man appeared to want to fight officers and picked up a rock.
One witness, Pasco resident Benjamin Patrick, told the Seattle Times that the man “was just trying to walk away” when officers shot him. The man had been yelling at police and attempted to throw rocks at police who then appeared to fire a Taser when he walked across the intersection, Patrick said.
“That’s when they started shooting,” Patrick told the Seattle Times. “I could not believe they were shooting guns. There were cars and people everywhere.”
According to court records, Zambrano-Montes had been arrested in January 2014 for assaulting a Pasco police officer, and he pleaded guilty in June. Metzger said he was unsure whether the officers in Tuesday’s incident were aware of Zambrano-Montes’s record.
The results of the SIU investigation could take months, Metzger warned.