SEATTLE – The head of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP on Tuesday called a videotape, showing a Seattle police officer stomping on and using racially charged language toward a Latino man, evidence of a hate crime.
James Bible says the NAACP is calling on the King County Prosecutor's Office to file malicious harassment and assault charges against Det. Shandy Cobane.
"Anytime, when civil rights are violated, when human rights are violated of any person within our county, within our city and within our nation, we must take a stand," said Bible.
The video, shot April 17 near Lake Union, shows Det. Cobane stomping on the 21-year-old man's arm or hand and possibly kicking him in the head. He then yells something that could be interpreted as a racial slur. Another officer, Mary Woollum, appears to stomp on the unidentified man's legs.
"In this particular case, when you have a detective standing over a defenseless person, saying that they will kick the Mexican … out of them, this is malicious harassment," said Bible. "This is clearly a hate crime."
Bible says the NAACP receives reports like this often. The difference is there is video evidence this time.
"So when we have video and recording of an incident such as this, it is critical that the prosecutors of this county, that we have put in place to uphold the law, file hate crime charges," said Bible.
Bible says he's concerned that other officers at the scene stood by and did nothing, and perhaps failed to write down what happened in their reports.
"The blue wall of silence is alive and well at the expense of the people," said Bible.
Gov. Chris Gregoire also spoke about the incident Tuesday.
"No excuses for that and I hope they'll take swift action so it never ever happens again in this state," said Gregoire.
Bible's says his displeasure spreads to the top of the ranks, to Interim Chief John Diaz. He says the NAACP had recently raised concerns to him about officer training, but that he had not given them the response they had hoped for.
Bible also took KCPQ-TV to task, accusing the station of not releasing the video in order to foster its relationship with local law enforcement.
"And perhaps most disturbingly, within that, it seems that there's a significant possibility that there was an inferred threat from law enforcement in reference to whether or not Channel 13 should air that particular video," said Bible.
The video was shot by a photographer who was working for KCPQ on April 17. That photographer claims KCPQ chose not to air the video. He claims he was let go by the station after posting the video on YouTube.
On Tuesday afternoon, KCPQ released a statement, saying that it did not intentionally suppress the video.
"The video is very disturbing," said the station. "The actions of the officers and the language used by one of them, understandably, elicits an emotional reaction from everyone who sees it. As a result, we felt it was important to learn as much as possible about the circumstances surrounding the incident captured on the video before we aired it. Not doing so would have been reckless and done a disservice to the community and to the police department."
KCPQ says it should have reported the story sooner, adding "We take responsibility for that mistake and we apologize."