Witness describes man's last moments during struggle with security guards after pepper spraying

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) - "To me, it looked like he was trying to get air," Akil Copeland told 7 Action News about the moments that led up to the death of 25-year-old McKenzie Cochran.

Security officers at Northland Mall were called by the owner of the LA Diamonds store after he became suspicious of Cochran.

The security guards told Southfield Police that, while there hadn't been any physical contact with Cochran, he wasn't cooperating and, at some point, one guard feared for his safety and pepper sprayed him.

That's when they put Cochran on the ground and tried to grab his arms and legs.

Copeland says, at one point, there were five or six security guards on top of Cochran.

On someone's cell phone video, Cochran can be heard saying "I can't breathe" over and over. In other video clips, security guards can be heard repeating "stop resisting."

A few minutes later, a witness says Cochran was handcuffed, sitting on the floor, with his back up against a wall, and his head slumped over.

Copeland said it looked like Cochran had been "propped up against the wall."

It was clear to Copeland that Cochran needed medical attention, but when he tried to see if he could help Cochran, he was told to stay back.

Although Cochran appeared to be unconscious, Copeland says he did not see any mall security officer administer CPR.

Southfield Police say when they arrived, Copeland wasn't breathing, but had a pulse.

The Ferndale man was later pronounced dead.

A cause of death has not been determined. Toxicology test results are expected back in a few weeks.

"Whatever he did.. didn't amount to the price that he paid," said Copeland. "Life is worth more than anything at Northland Mall."
 

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