Senior Hispanic Officer Thinks Connection Between Police and Pas - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Senior Hispanic Officer Thinks Connection Between Police and Pasco Community is Strong

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PASCO, WA. -- After last month's officer involved shooting in Pasco, many people around the country have used Pasco as an example of a place where the policing system may be broken.

Sergeant Rigo Pruneda is an 11-year veteran of the Pasco Police Department. He's the most senior Hispanic officer on the police force and he says working the streets of Pasco everyday, he knows the community and he doesn't see any type of racial divide at all. 

Pasco Police Sergeant Rigo Pruneda says it's his upbringing that helps him to connect with Pasco's Hispanic community. 

"My father was born and raised in mexico," Sgt. Pruneda said. "He came to the United States for the American dream."

Sergeant Pruneda was the supervising officer on February 10th, the night Antonio Zambrano was shot. He still remembers hearing the stress in the officers voices when they called for backup.

"You could hear that in their voice over the radio, that's when I knew something was going to be a little bit different," Sgt. Pruneda said. 

Sergeant Pruneda has been patrolling the same part of downtown Pasco for 11 years, a community he says he loves.

For many, it's easy to look at the hundreds of protesters after the shooting and say the community of Pasco is divided. Officer Pruneda strongly disagrees.

"I see people that are stopping me in the middle of road, shaking my hand, giving me a hug," Sgt. Pruneda said. "I see the countless cookies coming into the department, hundreds of cards coming from everywhere in the Tri-Cities. So when someone says that there is not a good relationship there, that bothers me because I'm here every day. I do it everyday, day in and day out, and I know that that's not to be true, that's not true."

The shooting has thrust the City of Pasco, and more specifically the Pasco Police Department into the center of an on-going national conversation. While it threatened to divide us, Sergeant Pruneda believes it will actually bring the community he knows and loves, closer. 

"The city is more than that," Sgt. Pruneda said. "We're more than that, the department is more than that. We're a good city that works together and we're going to past it. And we're going to be better for it."

It's important to note with this story that protesters of the shooting have repeatedly said that they are not protesting against the Pasco Police Department but the recent use of force by police departments across the country.