In an area known as the Tri-Cities in Washington, there is a colorful intersection at North 10th Avenue and West Lewis Street. Pasco is a small city with a majority Latinx population and home to many people striving to create a better life for themselves and their families. Just past this intersection is the parking lot for Fiesta Foods, a local super mercado lined with red, white, and green flags. Nearby, one could pick up some ice cold raspados from Botanas Locas, a Mexican-style snack shop.

8 years ago, this intersection would look similar. The same super mercado, colorful flags, and sandwich shops would have lined the street. The air would be chilled to a cool 45 degrees, the sun sitting low in the sky. At this intersection on the evening of February 10th, 2015 around 5pm, a farmworker would have been engaged in an altercation with Pasco police in front of Botanas Locas. A man filmed the scene on his phone. The sound of sirens and gunshots would have filled the air.

Antonio Zambrano-Montes was a 35 year-old migrant farmworker living in Pasco, WA. He moved from Mexico in 2004 to work in the agriculture industry. Soon after arriving, Antonio found a job picking apples. By 2015, life for Antonio had become tough. He was struggling emotionally after suffering an injury that left him unable to work. The evening of February 10th, Antonio was at the intersection of 10th and Lewis experiencing a mental health episode. Pasco police were called and they responded with an abundance of force.

The life of farmworkers in places like Pasco is incredibly challenging. The work is backbreaking, conditions are often unsafe, hours are excruciatingly long under the hot sun or freezing cold, and perhaps worst of all, compensation is abysmal. Over a third of farmworkers and their families live beneath the poverty line despite the industry bringing in billions. Furthermore, farm owners provide subpar housing and extract overpriced rent. All of these factors lead to significant increases in mental health issues among farmworkers.

To cope with the physical, mental, and spiritual trauma of his life, Antonio Zambrano-Montes turned to drugs. This is what caused his mental health episode on February 10th, 2015. When police arrived at the scene, Antonio began throwing rocks at the officers. He was not armed with a knife or firearm. After a failed attempt to flee, Antonio turned to Pasco police with his arms raised in surrender when three officers—Ryan Flanagan, Adam Wright and Adrian Alaniz—shot him 17 times, killing Antonio Zambrano-Montes where he stood.

Today, working conditions for farmworkers remain untenable. During the pandemic, workers faced disproportionate risks as “essential workers” often lacking adequate healthcare and safe working conditions. After the three officers involved were absolved of criminal accountability, the family of Antonio Zambrano-Montes filed a lawsuit arguing the officers violated his civil rights. It would take 3 years to reach a settlement. The State of Washington determined Antonio’s life was worth $700,000.

Many of us witnessed and maybe even participated in the wave of activism against police brutality in 2020. We all read statements released by lawmakers and companies making promises to face the issue of racism head on. Have they followed through? Were the statements enough? Have you thought lately about the human being who harvests your produce? Consider for a moment that Antonio Zambrano-Montes might have picked an apple you enjoyed. Consider, for a moment, the true cost of an apple.