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Originally published Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 12:42 PM

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Seattle cop won't face hate-crime charge for kicking Latino man

A Seattle police officer who sparked a public outcry after he stomped a prone Latino man in April and used ethnically inflammatory language will not be charged with the felony of malicious harassment, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle police detective who sparked a public outcry after he stomped a prone Latino man and used ethnically inflammatory language in April will not be charged with the felony of malicious harassment, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.

But the Seattle City Attorney's Office plans to review the Police Department's investigative file on the case to determine if any misdemeanor charges are warranted against Detective Shandy Cobane, spokeswoman Kimberly Mills said shortly after the announcement.

The county Prosecutor's Office, in a written statement, said Cobane used "patently offensive language" but will not be charged with malicious harassment under the state's so-called "hate crime" law because prosecutors found he did not intentionally target or threaten the man because of his race or national origin.

Prosecutors reached their decision after reviewing the Seattle police investigation of Cobane.

Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, in a written statement, said he had read the decision and contacted Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes to ask him to review the case.

Diaz said an internal investigation by the department's Office of Professional Accountability has yet to be completed and remains a "very high priority."

But that investigation will remain on routine hold while Cobane's conduct is reviewed by the city attorney, a department spokesman said.

Cobane, 45, who was working as a gang detective, drew condemnation from 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?"

In May, the Seattle chapter of the NAACP and other civil-rights groups urged county prosecutors to prosecute Cobane, and a coalition of minority organizations formed after the incident pressed for the firing of both officers.

Estela Ortega, the coalition's chairwoman and the executive director of El Centro de la Raza, a Seattle social-justice organization, labeled the decision of the Prosecutor's Office "disappointing and disturbing."

"As we see it," Ortega said in a written statement, "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."

She called on Diaz and Mayor Mike McGinn to hold Cobane accountable, so all officers know "hatred, undue force, and maliciousness" are not acceptable.

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The case prompted the Police Department to open internal investigations into the conduct of every officer who was present but didn't intervene during the April 17 incident, as well as into an allegation that other department members sought to discourage a media outlet from airing the video.

The Police Department didn't identify the media outlet, but Seattle police earlier said they were contacted April 17 by someone at KCPQ-TV hours after the incident was captured by a freelance videographer.

The video eventually was broadcast May 6 by KIRO-TV, prompting McGinn to call the footage disturbing and the Seattle City Council to label it "extremely troubling."

Cobane, who joined the Police Department in 1993, 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 prosecutors have now 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 in the area of Westlake Avenue North.

After the man moved a hand to his face, Cobane is seen apparently trying to stop the movement with his boot but appears to strike the man's head. The man's head flinched upward.

But King County prosecutors, in Wednesday's statement, said Cobane used his foot to stomp down on the man's hand and drag it away from his body.

"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," according to the statement.

Moments after Cobane's stomp, patrol Officer Mary Lynne Woollum is seen stomping on the back of the man's leg or knee.

Two of the three men, including Monetti, were later freed. The third man and another suspect identified nearby were arrested and are facing armed robbery charges.

Monetti was present during the alleged robberies but didn't actively participate, according to the prosecutor's statement.

Prosecutors said that although Cobane used offensive language about Monetti's ethnicity, "such language is not in and of itself a crime."

The statement said a threat or assault must be directed toward a person because of the person's race, while Cobane's "command to stay still was directed at Mr. Monetti due to Mr. Monetti's actions and his lack of compliance, not his ethnicity."

Cobane and Woollum were assigned new duties when internal investigations were initially launched.

Woollum's conduct wasn't included in the Prosecutor's Office statement, and it wasn't clear if the City Attorney will examine her actions.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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