US City Tense After Police Shoot Dead Mexican

Published: 14th February 2015 12:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th February 2015 12:29 PM   |  A+A-


LOS ANGELES: A US city was on edge today amid protests and condemnation -- including from Mexico's president -- over the fatal police shooting of a homeless Mexican immigrant who was throwing rocks at officers.

The incident on Tuesday in Pasco, Washington state comes in the wake of a series of white police shootings of non-white unarmed victims that triggered demonstrations across the United States late last year.

"We don't want another Ferguson here in Pasco," said coroner Dan Blasdel, cited by The Seattle Times, referring to the St. Louis suburb rocked by protests after the killing of African American teen Michael Brown last year.

Police in Pasco, some 350 kilometres southeast of Seattle, have called for calm.

Amateur video of the shooting shows three police officers taking aim at the 35-year old Antonio Zambrano-Montes, who was throwing rocks at them, before they chased him across a road.

Police said they had tried to subdue him with a Taser gun but Zambrano-Montes continued to attack them.

In the video, the victim appears to raise his hands while running away a few seconds before he is shot dead.

On Wednesday, the government of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed its "deep condemnation" and on Friday Pena Nieto added: "I reiterate Mexico's condemnation of the disproportionate use of lethal force."

The Mexican president said he had instructed his foreign minister to provide support to Zambrano-Montes' family and to "rigorously follow the investigation of this so terrible, so shocking event."

Blasdel, the Franklin County coroner, said he is considering convening a rare inquest jury to look into the shooting, according to The Seattle Times.

In such an inquest, a jury would be presented with evidence of the shooting and asked to decide whether the officers were justified in their use of deadly force, the newspaper said.

"What I'm thinking is that it is a public process and considering the amount of controversy right now, I think being transparent is important," he said. "The case would be considered by jurors from the community."

Meanwhile the family of the dead man, described as an orchard worker, filed a USD 25 million claim against city authorities over the shooting, KING 5 television reported.

Over 100 protestors staged a demonstration outside City Hall on Wednesday night, carrying signs including "Don't Shoot" and "Use Your Training, Not Your Gun!" according to The Seattle Times.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said his staff has been in contact with Pasco officials to stress the need for a full investigation.

"We are going to need to get to the bottom of understanding the circumstances of this," he said.

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