SEATTLE -- No assault charges will be brought against two Seattle police officers who stomped on a prone Latino man in April, including a detective who used ethnically inflammatory language during the videotaped incident, the City Attorney's Office said Tuesday.
The announcement that misdemeanor charges won't be filed against Detective Shandy Cobane and patrol Officer Mary Lynne Woollum comes after the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office decided in September not to charge Cobane with malicious harassment, a felony, under the state's so-called "hate crime" law.
"Though the incident was marred by an unacceptable and unnecessary racist comment, our office concludes that neither officer's conduct was criminal, and I decline to file misdemeanor charges," City Attorney Peter Holmes said in a written statement.
Both officers will now be subject to an internal investigation by Seattle police that was put on hold while the April 17 incident was reviewed by county and city prosecutors.
Cobane, who was working as a gang detective, was condemned by civil rights and minority organizations after he was captured on videotape telling the Latino man he was going to "beat the (expletive) Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?"
The incident was among several cited by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community and civil rights organizations in a Dec. 3 letter requesting the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of violating the civil rights of suspects, particularly minorities.
The State Patrol, at the request of Seattle police, agreed last week to conduct a criminal investigation into one of the other incidents, in which a Seattle officer repeatedly kicked an African-American teen during a videotaped arrest inside a convenience store in October.
The incident involving Cobane and Woollum prompted the Police Department to also open an internal investigation into the conduct of every officer who was present but didn't intervene.
The department also examined an allegation that other department members sought to discourage KCPQ from airing video captured by a freelance videographer, but no wrongdoing was found.
The video was first broadcast May 6 by KIRO-TV, prompting Mayor Mike McGinn to call the footage disturbing and the Seattle City Council to label it "extremely troubling."
Cobane issued a tearful public apology the night of May 7, saying, "I know my words cut deep and were very hurtful. I am truly, truly sorry."
The video showed police detaining three men suspected in what King County prosecutors determined to be two armed robberies.
In the video, Cobane directed his ethnically inflamed remarks to a Latino man, identified as Martin Monetti, 21, of Seattle, who was lying on a sidewalk.
After Monetti moved a hand to his face, Cobane is seen apparently trying to stop the movement with his boot but appears to strike Monetti's head. Monetti's head flinched upward.
King County prosecutors found that Cobane used his foot to stomp down on Monetti's hand and drag it away from his body.
Although forceful, the stomp wasn't unreasonable considering the "totality of the circumstances," according to a Sept. 1 statement issued by the prosecutor's office.
Moments after Cobane's stomp, Woollum is seen stomping on the back of Monetti's leg or knee.
Two of the three men, including Monetti, were later freed. The third man and another suspect found nearby were arrested and charged with armed robbery.
Monetti was present during the alleged robberies but didn't actively participate, the prosecutor's statement said.
County prosecutors said although Cobane used "patently offensive language," he did not intentionally target or threaten the man because of his race or national origin and that "such language is not in and of itself a crime."
Prosecutors said a threat or assault must be directed toward a person because of the person's race, while Cobane's command to Monetti to stay still was directed at his actions and lack of compliance, not his ethnicity.
Cobane, 45, a 17-year veteran, and Woollum, 45, a 13-year veteran, were assigned new duties when they became subjects of the internal investigation.
Cobane's conduct prompted the Seattle chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups to urge county prosecutors to prosecute him, and a coalition of minority organizations formed after the incident pressed for the firing of both officers.
The decision by prosecutors to not bring a felony charge was criticized in September by Estela Ortega, the executive director of El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle social justice organization, and chairwoman of the minority coalition that called for the firing of Cobane and Woollum.
She called on McGinn and Seattle Police Chief John Diaz to hold Cobane accountable to let officers know "hatred, undue force, and maliciousness" are not acceptable.
Diaz has previously said the internal investigation into the incident by the department's Office of Professional Accountability was a top priority.
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