No hate crime charges against Seattle detective for 'stomping' Latino man


by KING 5 News

Posted on September 1, 2010 at 12:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:45 AM

Based on state law, do you agree with prosecutors that this was not a hate crime?

SEATTLE - The King County Prosecutor's Office says it will not file felony hate crime charges against Seattle police Detective Shandy Cobane. He's the detective seen on video stomping on a young Latino man and using racially charged language during a robbery investigation back in April.

"After reviewing a thorough investigation by the Seattle Police Department, we have determined that Detective Shandy Cobane did not commit the crime of felony malicious harassment, the state's 'Hate Crime' law," said the prosecutor's office in a press release.

On April 17, police were responding to calls of armed robberies by some Latino men who were armed with a machete and a handgun in the South Lake Union neighborhood. They stopped a group of three men, including 21-year-old Martin Monetti.

Related: Read the press release

Prosecutors say all three men were ordered to lie down face first on the ground, but Monetti "was not keeping his body or hands still as he had been ordered to do."

At one point, Cobane crouched down and was heard on video yelling "I'm going to beat the f---ing Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?"

"Detective Cobane then used his foot to stomp down on Mr. Monetti's hand and drag it back away from his body," say prosecutors.

Related: Watch the video

Officer Mary Woollum appears to also stomp on Monetti's leg. Other officers at the scene did not step in to stop what was happening.

According to the state's hate crime law, prosecutors say they must show that a person maliciously and intentionally threatened or assaulted a person because of their race, color or national origin.

"Detective Cobane did not maliciously and intentionally target Mr. Monetti due to his ethnicity. Instead, Detective Cobane and his fellow officers lawfully detained Mr. Monetti and the two other men because they had reasonable belief that the men were involved in two armed robberies," said prosecutors. Prosecutors clarified that because the men were potential suspects in an armed robbery, and because no weapons had been recovered, officers did not know if Monetti was armed.

"Mr. Monetti was not complying with commands," said prosecutors. "Although forceful, the stomp to move Mr. Monetti's hand away from his body was not unreasonable considering the totality of the circumstances that evening."

Prosecutors did say that Cobane used "patently offensive" language referring to Monetti's ethnicity.

"The use of offensive language in and of itself is not a hate crime," said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. "You need a lot more than that. You need the random selection of a victim, and that's the thing we don't have here. This person was selected because he was a suspect in a robbery."

Seattle's Latino community is not satisfied with the decision. Ricardo Sanchez, who helped form a community coalition to demand justice in this incident, wonders how far a police officer has to go before he is severely punished in Seattle.

"Especially when is somebody helpless lying on the ground and they get kicked in the head. That crosses the line, and that officer ought to be held accountable for it," said Sanchez.

"As we see it, the prosecutor's office is using nuanced language in the law to help protect a police officer who maliciously used physical force on a young man who posed no threat to the officer or anyone nearby. Further, the vile language used by Officer Cobane spells hatred," said Estela Ortega, Executive Director of Seattle's El Centro de la Raza.

Robbery victims and witnesses were able to identify the other two men, Hector Veteta-Contreras and Pedro Martinez-Najera, as having been armed during the robberies. A witness said Monetti was present during the robberies, but did not actively participate.

The prosecutor's office says Cobane was the only officer present who could have faced felony charges.

The case will be forwarded to the Seattle City Attorney's Office to determine whether Cobane or any of the other officers will face misdemeanor charges. Cobane could also face disciplinary action by the department.