Franklin County Prosecutor Won’t Step Away from Pasco Shooting Case
Although Sean Sant's response was thoughtful, it's clear he will not be removing himself from the investigation into the fatal shooting of a Pasco man in February.
A group that calls itself Consejo Latino had recently called for Franklin County Prosecutor Sean Sant to step away from the Special Investigations Unit that's been tasked with investigating the February 10th shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco.
The group is mostly made up of, according to multiple sources including the website oregonlive.com, "Hispanic business leaders." The group is headed by Chairman Felix Vargas, a retired military officer and former Mexican diplomat. There is no mention of this group anywhere in the Pasco Chamber of Commerce website. It is unclear what affiliation they may have with the Chamber.
Initially, the group sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a federal investigation to coincide with the SIU work, but now they are asking Prosecutor Sant to step down.
The letter they sent to Attorney General Eric Holder February 16th requesting the federal investigation, said this about the group:
"Consejo Latino (Latino Council) is a community organization which champions economic development for Hispanic-owned businesses, promotes cross-cultural communication and understanding and advocates politically on issues of concern to the multi-cultural Pasco, WA community. It is made up primarily of prominent members of the Hispanic community, a community which accounts for approximately 60 percent of the city and county population. The Consejo, along with other organizations, is providing general support to the Zambrano family."
Another letter was later sent to Franklin County asking Sant to step down, questioning the fairness of Sant's participation in the investigation. Part of that letter read:
"We question his credibility, he has been part of the SIU investigation, Mr. Sant is also a former police officer and he is normally the defender of the police in cases involving criminal activity..."
Thursday, Sant responded with a letter during a press briefing. He outlined his role as part of the investigation, defended the conduct of his office and other officials working on the case, and thanked Vargas and his group for their interest and service. He did say in the letter:
"I disagree with your notion that a traditional prosecutor's role is defending police officers in court. Police officers are like other witnesses in court called to testify about what knowledge they have in a particular case."
Sant also mentioned that a coroners inquest has been asked for, and a jury will hear a wide variety of witnesses and testimony. The jury will determine the manner and cause of death, who they believe is responsible, and if the homicide was justified. The inquest jury's findings will be advisory, and the prosecutor's office will make the final determination if charges need to be filed.
Vargas and Consejo Latino say if Sant doesn't step down, they are prepared to appeal to Governor Jay Inslee, and ask him to intervene in the case.