Criminal investigation launched into Seattle PD stomping case

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by LINDA BYRON and MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 6:51 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 19 at 6:08 AM

Poll:
What do you think should happen to the two officers?

SEATTLE - The Seattle Police Department has launched a criminal investigation into last month's videotaped incident of police officers stomping on a Latino man and using racially-charged words against him.

But a new coalition of leaders for people of color in Seattle say they don't want to wait. They want the two principal officers on the tape fired now. They say the tape speaks for itself.

The April 17 incident shows Detective Shandy Cobane stomping on the hand of Martin Monetti, 21, as Monetti lay face down on the ground. Cobane is heard yelling "I'm going to beat the f---ing Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?" Officer Mary Woollum is appears to also stomp on Monetti's leg. Other officers at the scene did not step in to stop what was happening.

The incident happened as police were searching for Latino suspects in armed robberies near the scene. Monetti was let go, but two other men were arrested.

On Tuesday, Interim Chief John Diaz announced he has put its internal investigation on hold and sent the case to the criminal division. Diaz says the investigation will look at the actions of every officer seen on the tape.

"They will do that investigation like they would any other criminal investigation. They will gather evidence, interviews and they will put that package together. That package will be sent to the prosecutor's office. They will review it. They will make a final determination whether to file charges or not," said Diaz.

Asked whether having his own department conduct the investigation is a conflict of interest, Diaz said no.

"We’ve done this in the past. We've done it successfully. I have no reason to believe we won't do that in the future."

Diaz says he is troubled that not one officer reported the use of force and that no report was written, which is required.

Diaz says he expects to appoint a Detective Sergeant to head up the investigation in the next couple of days. Diaz says he expects this investigation to be thorough and acknowledges that it could delay the decision to discipline the officers because the administrative review won't start up again until the criminal investigation is complete.

That may not sit well with leaders of Seattle's Latino community. On Tuesday, they gathered on the steps of City Hall, along with leaders of other communities of color, to announce the formation of the Community Coalition for Law Enforcement Accountability Tuesday.

"To ensure that there is zero tolerance policy with regard to discrimination, racist remarks, racial profiling and use of undue force," said Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza.

"If one innocent among us is kicked, called racist names, meant to feel inferior because of his color, we are all kicked," said James Kelley of the Urban League.

"You see we have to ask ourselves now, 'do we have to be afraid everytime we encounter a police officer?'" said Luis Ortega of Alianza.

The coalition says it wants Cobane and Woollum fired. They also want the supervising sergeant who witnessed the incident but failed to report it placed on unpaid leave and the officers at the scene suspended for two weeks without pay and reassigned to desk duty

Outside City Hall, three people held a counter-protest.

"Saying someone's Mexican is not a racial slur," said one man.

And there was this verbal exchange.

"People define themselves. I define myself. You don’t define me," said a man, speaking English with an accent.

"If you speak English, I could understand you. I don't know what you're saying," said a counter-protester.

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