PASCO, Washington (Reuters) – A Hispanic immigrant rights group said on Friday that cultural and linguistic differences may have inflamed tensions between police and a Mexican farm labourer shot dead in Washington state last week in a killing that raised questions about use of force.
Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, an out-of-work orchard worker from Mexico’s Michoacan state, was shot and killed in the city of Pasco in Washington’s agricultural heartland after he pelted police with rocks and then fled, in a confrontation captured on video.
His death sparked protests by demonstrators who accused police in Pasco of overly aggressive tactics in dealing with the Hispanic community and who likened the shooting to two high-profile police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City.
“He suffered from mental illness,” Felix Vargas, Chairman of Consejo Latino, said of Zambrano Montes. “They were screaming at him in a language he didn’t understand. It heightened tensions.”
Vargas said his group planned to work with the American Civil Liberties Union and mental health experts to draft guidelines helping police compassionately interact with immigrants.
The so-called “Zambrano protocol” will provide guidance on de-escalating conflicts with those who speak little or no English, Vargas said, adding he expected to present guidelines to authorities in coming weeks.
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger said he was unaware of the guidelines but said the department “is always open to reviewing anything that can assist us. Anything that our community wants from us we will give serious consideration”.