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Ferguson lawyer to represent slain Mexican man's family

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People gather near a memorial during a rally for Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in Pasco, Wash. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by Pasco police in Pasco on Tuesday. (AP) People gather near a memorial during a rally for Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, in Pasco, Wash. Zambrano-Montes was shot and killed by Pasco police in Pasco on Tuesday. (AP)

PASCO, Wash. (AP) — The high-profile attorney who represented the family of a black teenager killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, says he'll represent the parents of an unarmed Mexican man who was shot to death by officers this month in Washington state.

The Feb. 10 killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes — captured on video by a witness — has sparked protests and calls for a federal investigation.

On Monday, Benjamin Crump told The Associated Press that the family is worried about the fairness of an investigation.

Authorities say Zambrano-Montes, a 35-year-old Mexican immigrant and former orchard worker, was throwing rocks at officers. They say a stun gun failed to subdue him.

"At the heart of the matter is what's going on with what we see on that video — is it appropriate or not?" said the Florida-based Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Zambrano-Montes' family is worried about whether the case will be investigated fairly because of "what happened in Ferguson," Crump said.

"The No. 1 thing they said is, 'We don't want them to say that the police acted appropriately,'" he told the AP.

In a video recording by Dario Infante, 21, of Pasco, five "pops" are audible, and Zambrano-Montes can be seen running away, pursued by three officers. As the officers draw closer, he stops, turns around and faces them. Multiple "pops" are heard, and the man falls to the ground.

The Franklin County coroner has ordered an inquest into the death, which is being reviewed by a regional task force and being monitored by federal authorities.

Felix Vargas, head of the Pasco Hispanic rights group Consejo Latino, said a Seattle-based Justice Department official met with his group Sunday. The official said meetings are planned this week with local authorities, Vargas said.

Pasco is a fast-growing agricultural city of 68,000, where more than half the residents are Hispanic but few are members of the police force or the power structure

The killing was the fourth by Pasco police in less than a year and has led to protests. Officers were exonerated after similar investigations in the first three cases. Critics in the latest case say the officers should have used less than lethal force to subdue Zambrano-Montes.

Police said officers felt threatened by Zambrano-Montes. He was arrested last year for assault after throwing objects at Pasco officers and trying to grab an officer's pistol, court records show.

Authorities have said Zambrano-Montes was not armed with a gun or knife when he was killed. Whether he had a rock in his hand when he was shot is still under investigation.

Two of the officers involved were white, and the other Hispanic. All three opened fire, though the number of shots has not been disclosed.

Last week, investigators asked the public to provide more social media images and eyewitness accounts of what happened. They also asked for patience as the investigation continues.

Crump said the Pasco case is similar to other high-profile killings involving police officers.

"All the young people are protesting that Antonio had his hands up based on what they saw in the video, and he had no weapons," Crump said. "And just like in New York, it shows the graphic last moments of Eric Garner's life, here you have a video that shows the graphic last moments of Antonio's life."

In December, a grand jury in New York declined to indict an officer in Garner's chokehold death.

Meanwhile, another attorney who says he's representing Zambrano-Montes' family says he wants to temporarily withdraw a $25 million claim filed by Zambrano-Montes' widow and two daughters against the city after the shooting.

Attorney Charles Herrmann of Tacoma said Monday the claim was premature. He said the case needs more investigation into the police department's policies for dealing with people who are mentally ill or don't speak English.

___

Abdollah reported from Los Angeles.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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