Probe of police abuse widens
The conduct of every officer who was present — but did nothing to intervene — when two police officers kicked and stomped on a prone detainee is being reviewed as part of a growing internal investigation into the April 17 incident, Interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz said Friday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The conduct of every officer who was present — but did nothing to intervene — when two police officers kicked and stomped a prone detainee is being reviewed as part of a growing internal investigation into the April 17 incident, Interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz said Friday.
"This entire incident is going to be torn apart," he said during a news briefing at police headquarters. "... As we speak, additional information is coming forward.
"Every officer who was there, their conduct is being reviewed," said Diaz, noting that a supervisor was on the scene that night. "There's a lot more to this incident that needs to be dealt with."
After the briefing, Diaz met in City Hall with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and leaders of the local Latino community.
The incident, which was captured on video, occurred as police detained three men suspected in a robbery. Gang unit Detective Shandy Cobane can be heard telling a Latino man lying on a sidewalk, "I'm going to beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?"
Two of the three men, including the one who was stomped and kicked, were later released. The third was arrested.
Diaz, who is Latino, said the racial slur "is appalling to me personally. The community should be outraged by it."
Diaz offers a timeline
Diaz said the incident was brought to the attention of Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, assigned to the department's media office, by someone at KCPQ-TV on April 17 — hours after the incident was captured on video by a freelance videographer.
"They said they didn't believe it was a big issue," Diaz said of the station's news personnel. But he stressed that it is up to police commanders — not the media — to decide if something rises to the level of potential misconduct.
KCPQ-TV did not immediately air the footage, which Diaz said commanders first viewed after the videographer posted it on YouTube. Diaz said Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz called him at home April 24 to tell him about the video, saying there was a use-of-force issue and racially insensitive language.
"The first question out of my mouth was, 'Has it been sent to OPA?' " Diaz said, referring to the department's civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates all allegations of officer misconduct.
According to Whitcomb, an official investigation was launched April 26 — the first business day after commanders viewed the footage.
The videographer, Jud Morris, later sold the video to KIRO-TV, which broke the story May 6, setting off a national media storm.
Morris, who had a contract with KCPQ-TV but contends he wasn't on the clock when he shot the video, has since seen his contract terminated by the station. He has claimed the station refused to air the video because it has a cozy relationship with law enforcement.
On Wednesday, the station's senior assignment editor, Cheri Mossburg, was fired and the station's news director, Steve Kraycik, resigned.
The video, shot around 2 a.m., shows officers detaining three men about a half-mile from the China Harbor restaurant parking lot, where four Hispanic men had reportedly robbed another man of $40 after threatening him with a machete.
The man being stomped has been identified as Martin Monetti, 21, of Seattle.
In the video, after Monetti moved a hand to his face, it appears Cobane is trying to stop the movement with his boot but ends up striking Monetti's head. Monetti reacts, his head flinching upward.
Moments later, a patrol officer identified as Mary Lynn Woollum of the West Precinct is seen stomping on the back of Monetti's leg or knee.
Both Cobane and Woollum were reassigned to administrative duties on May 7, a day after the video first aired. Later that day, Cobane made an emotional apology for his hurtful words.
At the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI has launched a preliminary investigation to determine if Monetti's civil rights were violated. The Seattle branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has called on the King County prosecutor to charge Cobane with a hate crime.
News of the video came just days before Diaz was named one of three finalists for permanent police chief.
Reviewing other videos
At Friday's news briefing, Diaz said he's been told investigators are now reviewing "an expanded video," along with footage captured by dashboard cameras in the patrol cars at the scene.
He also said the girlfriend of one of the men arrested in connection with the robbery has claimed that her boyfriend was beaten up by police — and investigators are looking into that claim.
Investigators are working with Monetti's attorneys to set up an interview, he said.
When a reporter asked if the department is engaging in a cover-up, Diaz bristled: "Absolutely not," he replied. Told minority leaders have alleged that Seattle officers routinely mistreat people of color, Diaz said he didn't "believe it for a minute," adding "it's just not true."
Diaz said he would love to "speak from the heart," but wants to make sure there aren't any mistakes that could jeopardize the investigation or later lead to discipline being overturned because of due-process issues.
"We are doing the same thing our department does anytime there is an incident of wrongdoing," Diaz said.
Asked what he would like to say to Monetti, Diaz said: "It was appalling what occurred to him. I'm sorry about what occurred to him."
"A good first step"
After the news briefing, McGinn and Diaz's meeting, which included about a dozen representatives from the Latino community, ran to two hours. Afterward, El Centro de la Raza Executive Director Estela Ortega described it as "a good first step of many steps to come."
The community is "of one mind" about the incident on the tape, she said: "We are incensed, we are offended, we are 100 percent committed to doing all we can to make sure that it never happens again."
McGinn said the city would work to earn back the Latino community's trust. "We do not tolerate racism," he said. "We do not tolerate undue force in this city."
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report. Staff reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
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