FBI launches civil rights probe into Seattle PD video

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by MEG COYLE / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @MegCoyleKING

KING5.com

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 5:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 11 at 6:32 AM

SEATTLE – A high-level source within the Department of Justice says the FBI is being asked to launch a civil rights investigation after video surfaced of Seattle police officers stomping on a young Latino man and one of them yelling racially charged comments at him.

The NAACP will also make an announcement Tuesday, in which it is expected to ask that the case be handled like a hate crime.

The video, shot April 17 near China Harbor Restaurant along Lake Union, shows the man lying on the ground, face down. Det. Shandy Cobane, standing over him, is heard yelling "I'm going to beat the f---ing Mexican piss out of you homey. You feel me?" Seconds later, he appears to stomp on the man's arm or hand, possibly kicking the man in the head.

A female officer also appears to stomp on the man's legs. She has been identified as Ofc. Mary Woollum.

The man at the center of the video is not ready to go public yet, but KING 5 News has learned he is a 21-year-old graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle and has no criminal background. His mother says the family is working with an attorney to determine their next step while also reaching out for support within the Latino community.

On Monday, the man in the video and his family met with Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza in Seattle. The center is used to fighting back when they believe police cross the line.

"In the Latino community, there's always incidents, you know, that how police mistreat them," said Ortega.

The family turned to Ortega because she is a long-time family friend.

"The parents are both citizens. They own a small business. The young man is obviously very respectable, very nice, but they just didn't know what to do," said Ortega.

According to Ortega, the man was a half-mile away from where the robbery occurred April 17. Ortega says he was never booked and he doesn't have a criminal record, so that's why he was let go.

So while consumed with this tape, Ortega and her organization are looking for answers.

"It raises the question whether this is the mode of operation in terms of there being sort-of a culture of acceptance that brutality and racist terminology is acceptable," said Ortega.

El Centro de la Raza will meet Tuesday with Latino leaders in the community and, hopefully, a representative of the police department to decide how best to move forward.

Det. Cobane held a press conference Friday, tearfully admitting he used words that were "offensive and unprofessional." He apologized to his colleagues and the Latino community.

Sources within the West Precinct, where Ofc. Woollum works, say she is bright, energetic and highly regarded. 

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