(WXYZ) — Four people who were security guards at Northland Mall when a Black man was killed are being charged, seven years after his death.
According to the Michigan Attorney General's office, all four are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of McKenzie Cochran.
The Cochran family released the following statement after the charges were announced:
“The Cochran family is overwhelmed with joy and hope at this moment. Joy because the individuals who caused McKenzie’s death are finally being held accountable. Overwhelmed with hope that this is a continued step towards change and justice for McKenzie. We are thankful for what the AG and the Southfield police chief has done thus far. Those two persons as well as others rooted out a system that was broken seven years ago. They saw a wrong and made a commitment to make it right. Their actions were able to stop us from being tired of injustice.”
In 2014, cell phone video showed Cochran, 25, from Ferndale, being held down after security guards pepper-sprayed him at the now-closed mall.
“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Cochran yelled.
BREAKING: Michigan AG charging 4 former security guards at now demolished Northland Mall in Southfield, after 2014 death of 25 year old McKenzie Cochran. His death ruled a result of positional asphyxia. @wxyzdetroit #6PM @MIAttyGen @OCPOMcDonald pic.twitter.com/ZbzShRSIqb— Simon Shaykhet WXYZ (@simonshaykhet) October 13, 2021
But a security officer replied, “If you can talk, you can breathe.”
After security placed a knee on his back and held him down, McKenzie later became unconscious and died. An autopsy later determined his death was a result of positional asphyxia.
At the time, then-Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said she did not charge them because she could not win the case. She also said the security guards did not intend to harm Cochran.
The Michigan Attorney General's Office agreed to review the case in June 2020. AG Dana Nessel Thursday thanked WXYZ reporter Simon Shaykhet for "not giving up on the McKenzie Cochran case."
McKenzie‘s family says disturbing images and chilling admissions by security officers still haunt them every day, including one who admitted in civil court that they said, “Whatever you do, do not let him up. Don’t let him get up.” Another adding, "I found out later that night he was dead.”
George Gostias, who is the attorney for one of the security guards, Gaven King, released the following statement to 7 Action News:
“My client and his family are in absolute disbelief today that Michigan's attorney general would ressurect a seven year old incident where Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper issued a lengthy report, complete with the analysis of experts, that indicated there was absolutely zero evidence that my client caused or contributed to the death of Mr. Cochran. The timing of these charges is extremely disturbing considering both The absolute lack of evidence and the upcoming reelection campaign of attorney General Nessel.”