SEATTLE Civil rights groups are calling for action after a controversial video surfaces, showing a Seattle police officer yelling a racial slur and kicking a Latino man.
Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the ACLU, joined Latino and Islamic organization to ask the Seattle city attorney's office and King County prosecutors to treat the incident has a hate crime. They are also asking the Department of Justice to investigate the incident.
We give officers batons, guns, badges with the hope they will not violate our trust. With the hope that they will enforce the law, provide public safety, and honor the Constitution, said James Bible, President Seattle/King County Chapter of the NAACPat aTuesday morning news conference.
A Seattle FBI spokesman said his agency will conduct a preliminary inquiry intothe videotaped incident in which Seattle police officers are seen stomping on a man's head and body and using a racial epithet.
Seattle police have begun an internal investigation. Special Agent Fred Gutt says the U.S. Department of Justice requested the inquiry, which could lead to a full investigation.
Hate crimes in Washington state are a Class C Felony. They carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The video, shot by a freelance videographer on April 17 near the 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 isbright, energetic and highly regarded.
The nine candidates for Seattle police chief are also very aware of this case. They discussed it during interviews over the weekend. Soon that list will be narrowed to three. The search committee is expected announce their top picks Tuesday night. Mayor Mike McGinn will select the finalist, who will then be confirmed by the city council.