PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — In 2014, 25-year-old McKenzie Cochran was confronted by three white security guards at the now-closed Northland Mall in Southfield.
Cochran was pepper-sprayed and forced to the floor.
He said twice, “I can’t breathe.”
One of the guards responded, “If you can talk you can breathe.”
Cochran died of positional asphyxia. The incident was recorded on a cellphone that was critical to the case. The family reached a civil settlement with the mall and the financial terms were kept confidential.
Protesters marched on the office of Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper Thursday, saying this case has gone 6 years without justice.
It is very similar to the case of George Floyd where 4 fired Minneapolis police officers have been charged.
Prosecutor Cooper did not charge the mall security guards because she has repeatedly said there was no criminal culpability in a case she could win in court.
She issued the following statement to me Thursday:
The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month has prompted a painful - but long overdue - examination of racism in this country.
It does not, however, require that we rewrite history.
Here are the facts regarding McKenzie Cochran's unfortunate death. I trust that you, as a veteran reporter, will tell this story fairly, and avoid some the unhelpful hyperbole that gets in the way of having meaningful dialogue about these issues. Too often in these emotional times, journalists decide they won't let the facts get in the way of a good story. I am assuming you will not let that happen.
Your questions seem to imply that I should reconsider the very painstaking decision to not charge the civilian mall security with a crime, in light of Mr. Floyd's death and the "shift in public perception”. My job is to seek justice. The facts in Mr. Cochran's case have not changed.
There are nuances that are getting lost in this six year old case. These were not police officers, they were minimum wage, untrained civilian security with absolutely no experience in arresting or detaining people.
We did an exhaustive review in making our decision. We consulted with President Obama's Justice Department , which declined to take the case. Please note the importance of that. In the interest of justice, we consulted with an expert, referred by the justice department, who also reviewed the case, and came to the conclusion that while the guards were negligent, they were not criminally negligent.
And note that unlike Mr. Floyd's case, an autopsy of Mr. Cochran found the manner of death to be accidental.
Your station and many other journalists attended a press conference at my office following our decision, in which we laid out, in great detail, how we came to this conclusion. We answered many questions. We spent a great of time with community leaders discussing Mr. Cochran’s tragic death. I would urge you to go back and watch your own footage of that press conference.
Protesters disagree and say if Cooper doesn’t reconsider the case, she should be targeted in her reelection this year.
Michael Cochran, a brother of McKenzie lives in Virginia and made a recorded message that was played to the protesters targeting Cooper to take action.
Involuntary Manslaughter and Murder have no statute of limitations in Michigan.