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Pasco Police Shooting Inquest Off Again, On Again

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Last year's police shooting of a rock-throwing farmworker in Pasco has prompted periodic ongoing protests.

Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel has called repeatedly for an inquest into the 2015 police shooting of farmworker Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington. Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks in a crowded intersection when he was shot to death by three Pasco police officers.

A coroner's inquest is a historical legal process to look into suspicious or untimely deaths. Blasdel wants to hold an inquest even though a lengthy, multi-agency investigative report absolved the officers. But on Thursday, the latest roadblock to an inquest fell away.

The proposed inquest has been iced several times. First, superior court judges refused to host it in the county courthouse. Then Franklin County commissioners said they wouldn’t pay for it. Then, the county prosecutor said he wouldn’t take part. And then, Ryan Flanagan, one of the police officers who shot Zambrano-Montes, filed a lawsuit saying the coroner is biased and shouldn’t be allowed to lead the inquest.

Flanagan, whose lawyer said is still living in the Tri-Cities and working in construction management, dropped his case Thursday.

Now Blasdel plans to go ahead with the information-only inquest as soon as June. A charge can only be brought by the county prosecutor.

The inquest is expected to run for days and will cost over $20,000.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.