(Reuters) - A jury found on Wednesday that Washington state police officers acted lawfully when they shot dead a Mexican farm worker after he threw rocks at them, city officials said.
The finding by a coroner’s inquest jury, which was convened as a fact-finding process for the February 2015 shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in the farming hub of Pasco, follows decisions by federal, state and local prosecutors not to charge the three officers who opened fire.
Zambrano’s death sparked local protests and was condemned last year by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto who called it a disproportionate use of force.
The 35-year-old farm laborer was shot by three patrolmen during a confrontation caught on video at a busy intersection in the small, mostly Latino city of Pasco 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Seattle.
Police said Zambrano threw rocks at passing motorists and at the officers and that two stun guns failed to subdue him. In a video shot by a motorist, Zambrano was seen confronting the officers and running from them before he turned to face them and they opened fire multiple times.
Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel said last year that he would have a coroner’s jury conduct an inquest into the death, in a process that is rarely used in the United States to examine police shootings, which are generally reviewed by prosecutors and police agencies themselves.
“Given the conclusions reached independently after extensive review at the local, state and federal levels, the jury’s decision today does not come as a surprise,” Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said in a statement.
Zabell added that some members of the community of 68,000 people were still grappling with the shooting.
“Perhaps the conclusion of inquest process will serve to help them in the process of healing,” he said.
The U.S. Justice Department earlier this year said in a report on the shooting that the Pasco Police Department needs to improve officer training on use-of-force, recruit more Hispanics and women and increase the number of officers fluent in Spanish.
An attorney for Zambrano’s family did not return a call late on Wednesday.
Zambrano’s family has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against the city of Pasco over the shooting.
The undocumented immigrant, who arrived in Washington state’s apple-growing belt seeking opportunity about a decade ago, battled drug use and homelessness in the months leading up to the shooting.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles