Officer in Seattle PD stomping video identified

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by KING 5 News and KING5.com Staff

NWCN.com

Posted on May 7, 2010 at 11:57 AM

Updated Friday, May 7 at 10:39 PM

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Do you think officers went too far?

SEATTLE -  Video shot by a photographer shows a Seattle police detective stomping on a robbery suspect and using what could be considered a racial slur against the man as he lay face down on the ground.

The video, obtained by KING 5 News Friday morning, was shot early on the morning of April 17 on Westlake Avenue near China Harbor Restaurant. Officers were responding to a crime reportedly committed by Latino suspects.

It's unclear exactly what happened before the camera started rolling. Once the camera is on, three Latino men are seen on the ground, surrounded by police. A male officer bends down over one of them and yells "I'm going to beat the f---ing Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?"

Moments later, that man moves his arm. At that point, a police officer stomps on the man's hand or arm. It appears the officer may have also brushed the man's head with his foot. The man later says on camera that the officer kicked him.

A few seconds later, a female officer appears to stomp on the back of the same man's leg.

In the end, police figured out these were not the men responsible for the crime and let them go, although one of the three – not the man who was stomped on in the video – was taken away in a police car.

Later, the photographer talks to the man who was stomped on camera. There are scrapes on his face next to his left eye.

Photographer: "So they kicked you in the head, man?"
Detained man: "Yeah, they did."
Photographer: "Tell me why they kicked you in the head?"
Detained man: "I don’t know. They knocked me down and kicked me in the head."
Photographer: "You had nothing to do with what was going on?"
Detained man: "Nothing to do."

KING 5 News has confirmed the officer is veteran detective Shandy Cobane, a member of the gang unit. He is known for doing a difficult job and doing it well, according to his fellow officers. He's twice been Officer of the Year for the East Precinct.

"It's not personal. It only becomes personal if somebody ever tries to hurt me," Cobane told KING 5 in a 2008 interview. Cobane and his gang unit face some of the city's most dangerous criminals. He told us how he handles them. "The beautiful thing about the street is you give a little respect and that gets you miles," he said.

So, did something happen that didn't end up on tape that could justify this behavior? Seattle police will only say the case has been forwarded to the internal affairs unit. Seattle police say they began an internal investigation of possible officer misconduct the same day as the incident. A police statement says the review is being handled by the Office of Professional Accountability.

Cobane and another officer – likely the unidentified female – have been temporarily reassigned. KING 5 News has been unable to reach Cobane for comment.

"I found the video to be deeply disturbing," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "I expect there will be a thorough and fair investigation. From my position as mayor, I'll insist on it."

Seattle Interim Police Chief John Diaz, who is Latino himself, reacted to the story late Friday.

"Let me make this clear. Anytime the use of a racial slur, there is no excuse for it in any way shape or form," said Diaz. "We all understand this, and we're a better department than that."

The chief says he hasn't seen the tape yet because, if officers are disciplined, he'll be the one to do it. He says he wants to be careful about how he considers the evidence.

"I've also asked that Kathryn Olson, head of our Office of Professional Accountability, that she fast-track this investigation," Diaz said, "because it is critical for the community to see how we handle things as a department."

The OPA handles police complaints, both internal and external, certifies their findings, and makes recommendations to the Chief of Police on possible disciplinary action.

Diaz added that he was concerned about the impact this will have on police relations with Seattle's Latino community.

"Is that going to damage relationships that we've tried really hard to continue to build in any community? Yeah, absolutely," he said, "and it's going to be part of our job to... rebuild those partnerships."

Diaz is one of nine candidates for the permanent police chief job who will be meeting with a citizens' committee on Saturday.

The Seattle City Council also released a statement, calling the officers' actions "extremely troubling," and requesting an update from police on the internal review.

Bellevue's former police chief, Van Blariem, is now a consultant on police practices. He says it's hard to justify what he sees on the tape.

"Force, first of all, has to be necessary. In this case, it wasn't necessary at all," said Blariem. He grades the police work seen in the video an 'F.'

KING 5's Chris Ingalls and Owen Lei contributed to this report.

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