Is the Pasco Police Shooting The 'Ferguson' For Latinos? : Code Switch Earlier this month, an unarmed Mexican national was shot and killed by police in Pasco, Washington. The attorney who represented Michael Brown's family in Ferguson, Missouri has stepped into the case.

Is the Pasco Police Shooting The 'Ferguson' For Latinos?

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Earlier this month, police in Pasco, Wash., shot and killed a man. Antonio Zambrano-Montes was throwing rocks at cars in a busy intersection. When the police arrived, they say they tried to use a Taser on him. They say Zambrano-Montes then threw rocks at them, and they responded by opening fire. A cell phone video shows Zambrano-Montes running across the street and turning towards police before they fire more shots. Investigators say 17 shots were fired in total. Now the attorney who represented the families of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Trayvon Martin in Florida has stepped into the case. NPR's Jasmine Garsd says the shooting is causing an outcry among some Latinos in Pasco.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hands up, don't shoot. Hands up, don't shoot. Hands up, don't shoot.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The small, quiet farm town of Pasco has seen unusual activity as hundreds have turned out to protest since Zambrano-Montes was killed by police earlier this month.

DAVID CORTINAS: I think the entire community is just fed up.

GARSD: David Cortinas has been reporting on the shooting for La Voz Hispanic News, Pasco's Spanish-language newspaper. He says it's not the first confrontation between police and Latinos in the area.

CORTINAS: One of the officers was involved already in a big lawsuit. He slammed a Hispanic woman onto the front end of his vehicle and burned her face.

GARSD: That suit was settled out of court. Activists say something's got to give in a town that is over 50 percent Hispanic, but where less than a quarter of the officers are Latino. In a statement, the Pasco Police Department said the officers involved are on administrative leave and the shooting is under investigation. Cortinas says recent protests have been peaceful so far. But he believes if there is no justice, that could change and that Pasco could become a national focus for Latino rights, much like Ferguson was for African-Americans. But University of Southern California Professor Roberto Suro says, while many African-American communities have a long-standing history of tensions with the police, when it comes to Latinos...

ROBERTO SURO: Police violence has certainly been an issue in some places at some times, but not with the same consistency and with the same level of sensitivity that we see in African-American communities.

GARSD: Univision anchor Leon Krauze agrees that Ferguson and Pasco are two very different stories. But...

LEON KRAUZE: It's not because the outrage isn't there. It is.

GARSD: Krauze says, while Pasco has a lot of third- and even fourth-generation Mexican-American families, it also has a population of undocumented seasonal workers who might hesitate to speak up.

KRAUZE: It's just a matter of a simple cost-benefit analysis. Would you run the risk of deportation in order to pursue what I think is still an abstract, quote, unquote, "benefit"?

GARSD: Julio Ricardo Varela has been watching how residents are reacting to the shooting. He's the founder of the blog Latino Rebels.

JULIO RICARDO VARELA: I think what's going on in Pasco, although it feels local, has such greater implications for how the Latino community begins to mature as they say.

GARSD: Varela says part of the lack of national response to the shooting is related to the lack of a strong, unified voice among Latinos in the U.S.

VARELA: We, as a U.S. Latino community, haven't even begin to accept, you know, have honest discussions about race and class. And that's where we kind of have to look at each other in the eye and say, you know, we have our own issues here, we better start working together.

GARSD: Varela thinks that conversation is starting to happen among younger Hispanics, and incidents like the shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes might be the spark that lights the fire. Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, Washington.

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