Police in Pasco, Washington, on Wednesday, made a ridiculous claim. They stated that a citizen’s video that showed them killing unarmed Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, as he ran away, could not be used as evidence.
The video, which was published to YouTube on February 11, captured the shooting very clearly and had been viewed over 1,600,000 times as of Thursday February 19.
Zambrano-Montes’ shooting marks the fourth killing by Pasco police in less than a year.
The department alleged that they did not know who filmed the video, nor did they have the original file, so it could not be used. A bizarre claim, since his name has been online the entire week.
On Thursday, the police went to the home of the man who filmed the shooting, Dario Infante Zuniga, 21, and seized his phone without a warrant. Zuniga told The Free Thought Project that the police had made no contact with him prior to invading his privacy.
When the police showed up at his door, they alleged it was because he had not been answering his phone. They then gave him the choice of either handing his phone over to them or going with them to the station while they retrieved the file. The police did not give Zuniga the opportunity to clean out his personal files before they took it into their possession. The officers reportedly told him the only thing that they would look for would be the video, but Zuniga still feels as though his privacy was violated.
“They didn’t have a warrant, and I was going to consult a lawyer tomorrow on what I should do. I spoke with a lawyer today and he told me that the police need the video for evidence, but that I wasn’t required to give a statement,” Zuniga told the Free Thought Project when we asked if he had intended to turn the video over to them before they paid him a surprise visit.
The police attempted to get him to give a statement, but he declined and is wisely waiting until he has a lawyer present.
Zuniga witnessed nearly the entire encounter, he says. When he arrived, there was only one officer at the scene.
“I don’t think the officers did the right thing. I think they over used their power. There was a few different ways that they could have handled the situation.” Zuniga said, citing a taser gun as one feasible option seeing as the man was unarmed.
Not only did the police wait over a week to contact him, but they also failed to question witnesses at the scene- ushering everyone away as soon as more officers arrived.
Zuniga films every interaction or police encounter he witnesses and urges everyone else to do the same.
“Everyone needs to start filming police so that when things like this happen police don’t try to change things up,” he said.
Had Zuniga not been there, it is very likely that we would never know what exactly took place, having only the department’s statement.
This investigation is already questionable, as police have seemingly launched a full investigation into their victim. This “investigation” is likely an attempt to character assassinate him, instead of investigating why officers decided to shoot a man who was fleeing with his hands up.
Ken Lattin, a spokesperson for the Kennewick Police Department, has stated that he is trying to piece together what Zambrano-Montes was doing “hours, days, and weeks leading up to this incident.”
“It’s curious that when you ask them about the past of some of the officers, they say that information is not pertinent to the investigation,” Felix Vargas, chair of Consejo Latino, a local organization of Hispanic-owned businesses, said after a briefing, Fusion reports. “But somehow what Zambrano was doing weeks before this incident is vital information.”
This video may be a large part of the reason that this case has received much more attention than many of the at least 146 others who have been killed by police this year. Filming police is one of the best ways that we can police the police, and it is imperative that each one of us film every encounter, every time.
It seems as though the only ones being treated like criminals here are the victim and a witness.
The three officers involved in the fatal shooting were all equipped with microphones that were reportedly on, and there is also dashcam footage of the incident. None of this footage has been released to the public yet.
“My video did shake things up, and I’m glad it did. I just really hope my video helps. I hope it brings justice and hopefully starts to change things so police stop over using their power just because they have a badge.” Zuniga stated.
We hope so too. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this video has certainly shined some serious light on this situation in Pasco.
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Contributed by Cassandra Rules of The Free Thought Project.