Prosecutors Won't Charge SPD Gang Detective In Racially Charged Incident

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee September 1, 2010

The King County Prosecutor's office has declined to file charges against SPD Detective Shandy Cobane for his involvement in a racially charged incident near a Lake Union nightclub earlier this year.

"After reviewing a thorough investigation by the Seattle Police Department, we have determined that Detective Shandy Cobane did not commit the crime of felony malicious harassment, the state's "Hate Crime" law, during an incident that took place in April of this year," the prosecutor's office said in a prepared statement.

"Prosecutors have found that he did not intentionally target and then threaten or assault a person because of their race or national origin as required under the State's hate crime statute."

Gang detectives were called to the China Harbor nightclub around 1:00am on April 17th after a man reported he was robbed in the parking lot of the restaurant.

Police, including Det. Cobane, stopped three men near the scene, and a freelance videographer later captured Det. Cobane kicking one of the men in the head while he lay prone on the ground. Cobane was also caught on tape telling the man "I'm going to kick the Mexican piss out of you, homie. You feel me?"

Following the release of the tape on KIRO, Det. Cobane called a press conference and apologized for the incident.

The NAACP then called for the department to fire and prosecute Det. Cobane, who was taken off of gang unit duty and transferred to the North Precinct, where he has assisted detectives on several ongoing cases while the department investigated the incident.

Because the case has drawn so much attention from the public and civil rights groups, the prosecutor's office has also provided a detailed explanation for their decision to not file charges against Cobane, as well as a an in-depth account of the events that led up to the incident:

Police were called to China Harbor around 1:00am on April 17th after a man reported he was robbed by a group of Latino men in the restaurant's parking lot.

The man told police two of the suspects threatened him while a third man stood by, and that one of the suspects had held a machete to his stomach while the group robbed him of $40. The men told the victim "we are gangster. We can kill you right now."

The group of suspects then attacked another victim, hitting the victim with the machete, tearing the victim's shirt. One of the suspects also pulled a gun on the victim and threatened to kill them, according to the prosecutor's office.

Police stopped three Latino men several blocks away from China Harbor, and ordered the men to get on the ground.

The prosecutor's office says one of the men, Martin Monetti, threw something into the bushes, which later turned out to be his own wallet.

While police had the three men on the ground, "Monetti was not keeping his body or hands still as he had been ordered to do," the statement says. "Even one of the fellow detainees told Monetti to 'quit being stupid'".

Cobane and another officer then moved Monetti's hands away from his body, before Cobane told Monetti to "get your fucking head on the ground [unintelligible] to the side, you got me? I will beat the Mexican piss out of you, you feel me home?"

Prosecutors say "Monetti again lifted his head and moved his hands towards his face" before Det. Cobane "used his foot to stomp down on Mr. Monetti's hand and drag it back away from his body."

The victim of the robbery arrived at the scene a short time later, and identified one of the men in the group as the robbery suspect armed with the machete. He did not identify Monetti or the third man as being suspects in the robbery, although the victim said Monetti was present during the crime.

Police released Monetti and the third man, and eventually located the robbery suspect with the handgun, who was arrested.

Prosecutors say that in order to charge Det. Cobane with a hate crime, the would be required to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Cobane "maliciously and intentionally" assaulted or threatened Monetti "because of his perception of the victim's race, color or national origin."

According to the prosecutor's office, Cobane "did not maliciously or intentionally target Mr. Monetti due to his ethnicity" and detained Monetti and the other men because police "had reasonable belief that the men were involved in two armed robberies."

Cobane "never directed his verbal command or his use of physical force towards either of the other two men being detained, who were also Latino," the prosecutor's office statement says, describing Cobane's language as "patently offensive."

Prosecutors also say Monetti "was not complying" with officers' commands, and note that Cobane's "forceful" stomp of Monetti "was not unreasonable considering the totality of the circumstances that evening."

Cobane will now be subject to SPD's disciplinary process.

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