Federal Officials Close Review into the Death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes
SPOKANE - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against Pasco Police Officers Adrian Alaniz, Ryan Flanagan, and Adam Wright for the death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes on February 10, 2015.
A team of experienced federal investigators and prosecutors conducted an independent review of the evidence related to the death of Zambrano-Montes. These investigators and prosecutors reviewed witness statements, reports, records, transcripts, medical records, diagrams, photographs, and videos. In addition, they solicited input and followed leads provided by attorneys working for the family of Mr. Zambrano-Montes.
This decision has been communicated to the family of Mr. Zambrano-Montes.
This team considered whether Officers Alaniz, Flanagan, and Wright violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against Mr. Zambrano-Montes. Under the law, the use of deadly force is justified when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others. Moreover, under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. Mistake, misperception, negligence, or poor judgment are not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.
Based on a careful and thorough review, the team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Officers Alaniz, Flanagan, and Wright acted with the requisite criminal intent, that is, willfully with a bad purpose to violate the law. There is no reliable testimonial or physical evidence that refutes the accounts provided by the officers that they believed the force they used was necessary to protect themselves and to stop a perceived threat. Accordingly, the federal review of this incident has been closed without prosecution. This decision is limited strictly to an application of the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the incident that led to Mr. Zambrano-Montes’ death.
In announcing this determination, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, offered his condolences: “Our thoughts remain with Mr. Zambrano-Montes’ family and friends. I cannot fathom how painful their loss has been.” Though USA Ormsby’s office has previously prosecuted cases involving the unlawful use of force by law enforcement officials, he noted that, “These cases are difficult because someone has lost their life. It is very important to consider multiple factors and apply the applicable law in determining whether or not to file criminal charges.” USA Ormsby went on to say, “In this matter, the Tri-Cities/Washington State Patrol Special Investigation Unit conducted a very exhaustive investigation which was reviewed and supplemented by very experienced FBI agents. That work was further reviewed and discussed by me, Assistant United States Attorneys in my office, and experienced litigators in the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. These cases deserve and receive careful review and examination in light of the detailed requirements of the federal law under which they can be prosecuted. After this investigation, examination, and discussion, it was my determination that the filing of criminal charges in this case could not be supported.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, the Civil Rights Division, and the FBI are committed to investigating allegations of civil rights violations by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The Department will aggressively prosecute criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.