Latino Civic Alliance responds to former officer's motion to dis - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Latino Civic Alliance responds to former officer's motion to dismiss coroner from Zambrano inquest

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PASCO, WA - Latino Civic Alliance is responding to a former Pasco Police officer's motion to remove Coroner Dan Blasdel from an upcoming inquest into the shooting death of Antonio Zambrano. 

STATEMENT FROM THE LATINO CIVIC ALLIANCE: 

On February 10, 2015 Pasco lost a community member Mr. Antonio Zambrano Montes to a violent death at the hands of three police officers including former Police Officer Ryan Flanagan.  Mr. Zambrano Montes was shot 17 times holding a rock and this tragedy was witnessed by large amount of community members including children that could have been harmed or killed. Coroner Blasdel announced shortly after the incident that he would pursue a coroner inquest on the death of Mr. Antonio Zambrano Montes. LCA has publicly disagreed with Prosecutor Sant’s decision not to charge the police officers involved for the death of Mr. Zambrano Montes.  The overwhelming video coverage and public testimonies demonstrating the death of Mr. Zambrano Montes should have been enough evidence to prosecute them. From the beginning of the Coroner stating he would have an inquest has received objections from the Prosecutor Sant’s office, Franklin County Commissioners, Franklin & Benton Superior Court Judges and the police officers involved with the death of Mr. Zambrano Montes.  We have seen firsthand the lack of knowledge of the purpose of a coroner inquest from the very same opponents. Franklin Coroner Blasdel has conducted only 4 inquests in the last 21 years. This motion by Mr. Flanagan continues to be an interference to elevate the community’s lack of faith in the judicial system. 

The coroner’s inquest is a state law that Franklin County Coroner has the authority under Washington state law  to conduct inquests according to RCW 36.24.020 -http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=36.24.020

“Any coroner, in his or her discretion, may hold an inquest if the coroner suspects that the death of a person was unnatural or violent, or resulted from unlawful means, or from suspicious circumstances, or was of such a nature as to indicate the possibility of death by the hand of the deceased or through the instrumentality of some other person: PROVIDED, That, except under suspicious circumstances, no inquest shall be held following a traffic death."

The court is a separate branch of government and has its own hearings and  having a judge oversee a coroner inquest exceeds the limitations of their role.  We find the unique stance of Mr. Flanagan to ask Coroner Blasdel to be removed from the inquest as undermining the solemnity of the RCW that clearly defines the coroner that ordered it. We also disagree with the allegation that the Coroner will not ensure unbiased opinions to complete his job.  The motion by Mr. Flanagan exceeds limitations to represent the people of Franklin County.

LCA disagrees that Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel violates the mandates of RCW 36.24.020. Considering that more than 60% of the constituents in Franklin County are Latino, Latinos have a high probability to serve on the jury which represents the community. Therefore, we disagree that Mr. Blasdel would select any specific ethnic group to serve on the jury. Refusal to support the Franklin County Coroner to proceed with the inquest is perceived as challenging the coroner from having a successful inquest. We believe the Coroner role as an elected official  is to serve as a trusted steward and be in support of the voices of the people, which are in support of the inquest.

The Franklin County Superior Court should deny Mr. Flanagan motion and allow Coroner Blasdel to proceed with the inquest.  LCA believes that regardless of the outcome of the inquest, we will continue to advocate for all available options to be uncovered to provide justice for the violent death of Mr. Zambrano Montes.  Washington State has lost many community members like Mr. Zambrano Montes in the line of fire by law enforcement when it could have been prevented. The inquest will add another set of eyes to the tragic death of Mr. Antonio Zambrano Montes, and after the inquest is completed our community will be one step closer to healing and restoring trust on the police officers and the court system not only in Pasco but in the Tri-Cities.

We question Mr. Flanagan's ulterior motive for wanting to remove the Coroner from the inquest. Stakeholders should remember that the City of Pasco paid $100,000 settlement for Mr. Flanagan's actions of excessive use of force to a Hispanic woman and this history of his previous actions should reduce his moral fortitude to now make a claim that the coroner would be biased.  The inquest will provide transparency to the community.  The City of Pasco and Franklin County have the opportunity to rise above and ensure this tragic incident does not further divide our community. Our priority should be in building public trust and we do this by ensuring the inquest made in this case is done in a transparent manner and by removing any perception of bias and impartiality.

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