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Consejo Latino Chairman Back From Meetings in Washington D.C. Regarding Zambrano Case

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PASCO, WA- The chairman of Consejo Latino, the group calling for the Department of Justice to get involved in the investigation of Antonio Zambrano's death has just flown back into town from Washington D.C.

Felix Vargas said he flew in late Saturday night from what he believes were important and successful meetings with Senator Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as the DOJ.

Vargas said he was happy to hear both senators have been monitoring the situation in Pasco and also share the same passion for a fair investigation.

Senator Cantwell told Vargas she has a great concern over the shooting and acknowledges an "alarming pattern" across the U.S. 

"They saw the importance of being able to talk to someone at the Department of Justice. So much so, that Senator Murray directed one of her staff members to facilitate a meeting with the DOJ and that would not have happened otherwise," explained Vargas.

The DOJ told Vargas that they are waiting until the Special Investigation Unit completes their investigation to decide if any steps from their side should be taken. The also held a meeting on the shooting just two days ago, Vargas was told those meetings review options for a federal civil rights engagement. There are three possible courses of action, but was asked to keep those private for now.

Vargas hopes that from this point forward, not only does the investigation play out fairly, but he would like to see changes to police policy and conduct.

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PASCO, WA - The chairman for Consejo Latino, the group leading an effort to get the Department of Justice involved in the Antonio Zambrano case, the man shot and killed by Pasco Police officers on February 10th, is back in Pasco after meetings this week in Washington D.C.

Felix Vargas met with Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as well as officials from the DOJ. 

Sunday he issued a press release detailing his meetings in Washington D.C.

FULL RELEASE: Consejo Latino Chair Felix Vargas visited Washington, D.C. during the period 12-13 March for the purpose of meeting U.S. congressional officials and U.S. Department of Justice representatives to discuss matters relating to the Pasco police shooting of Antonio Zambrano on 10 February 2015.  He met with Senator Patty Murray at 10:00 am on Thursday, 12 March, and later that same day, at 6:00 pm, met with Senator Maria Cantwell.  The following day, Friday, 13 March, at 2:30 pm, he met with two senior U.S. Department of Justice officials:  Mr. Robert J. Moossy, Jr,, the Chief of the Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, Department of Justice, and Ms. Christy Lopez, also of the Civil Rights Division.

Meetings with Senators

In separate meetings with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Mr. Vargas reviewed Pasco community concerns regarding the ongoing local SIU police investigation of the police shooting and the role of the Franklin County prosecutor, both of whom are perceived by many in the community as having a conflict of interest.  Mr. Vargas underscored the need now to focus on the deeper issues of police practices and procedures which warrant a U.S. federal intervention.

Both Senators acknowledged that serious issues involving police conduct and standards were raised by this shooting and assured Mr. Vargas that they are closely following developments in Pasco.  Senator Murray pointed to her ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice and its U.S. Attorney in Spokane, Mr. Michael Ormsby.  She voiced understanding and support for a meeting by Mr. Vargas with senior-level officials at the Department of Justice and asked a member of her staff to facilitate such a meeting during the remaining time of Mr. Vargas' stay in Washington, D.C.  

Senator Cantwell expressed great concern over the Pasco police shooting, which she saw as part of an alarming pattern across the U.S.  She pointed to a recent high-profile shooting of a young African-American woman by Washington, D.C. police just below the Senator's office window.  The woman, who suffered from substance abuse and had a small child in the car, had been pursued by police just prior to the shooting.  The Senator also supported Mr. Vargas' request for a meeting at the Department of Justice.

Both Senators thanked Mr. Vargas, Consejo Latino, and the protest organizers for their responsible leadership in the community and during the public protests.  They requested a read-out of Mr. Vargas' meeting at the Department of Justice and asked to be kept informed of developments in Pasco.

Department of Justice Meeting.

Mr. Moossy, who works on criminal prosecutions, stated that he is staying in close touch with U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby in Spokane on developments in Pasco.  He assured Mr. Vargas that he is closely watching the situation.  Mr. Moossy stated that the Department of Justice remains inclined to wait for an outcome of the local SIU investigation before deciding on what, if any, next steps should be taken.  Mr. Moossy would not rule out any federal action, in this regard.

Ms. Lopez pointed to a high-level Department of Justice meeting in Washington, D.C. on Pasco two days ago.  She was well aware of Congressional interest, especially from the offices of Senators Murray and Cantwell, and assured Mr. Vargas that her office, which focuses on patterns and practices of police departments in the U.S., was reviewing options for a federal civil rights engagement in Pasco.  She listed three possible courses of action, which she asked be kept private for now, pending further internal Department of Justice deliberations.  She noted Mr. Vargas' mention that the Washington Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs was planning a Community Forum later this month and left open the possibility that the Department of Justice would send a representative.

Both officials were well-informed on developments in Pasco and offered to stay in touch with the community as the situation evolved.
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