Death of young black man at the hands of white mall security should be prosecuted, says family attorney

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 10:06:56-04

(WXYZ) — Many people are asking why the Oakland County Prosecutor is still not reconsidering criminal charges in the death of a young black man at the hands of three white mall security guards in a case that goes back in 2014.

UPDATE: Oakland County prosecutor requests outside review for 2014 killing of McKenzie Cochran by mall security

This case was the subject of a protest outside the Oakland County Courthouse Thursday.

Now the attorney for the family Jerry Thurswell says this case should go to a jury, especially after George Floyd, calling it a “carbon copy.”

Twenty-five-year-old McKenzie Cochran resisted security trying to throw him out as the now-closed Northland Mall when he was pepper-sprayed twice and held down on the floor for several minutes.

He said twice, “I can’t breathe” and one security officer responded, “if you can talk you can breathe.”

Attorney Thurswell says under Michigan law, this should be charged as Involuntary Manslaughter.

Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in 2014 she did not charge because she could not win the case. She also says the security guards did not intend to harm Cochran.

Thurswell says in a criminal case you have to show the actions led to the death and in this case, McKenzie Cochran told them he couldn’t breathe and died.

Thurswell says it is similar to someone who drives drunk and kills someone, they are held accountable in criminal court.

Last year, another high profile case was taken away from Prosecutor Cooper by the Michigan Attorney General when Cooper would not issue charges. That was in the disappearance and presumed death of Danielle Stislicki in Farmington Hills.

Attorney General Dana Nessel charged Floyd Galloway with murder and the case is set for trial. Nessel met with Farmington Hills police and concluded there was enough evidence.

Attorney Thurswell settled the civil lawsuit with the mall for a confidential amount but he says the family also wants criminal justice. There is no statute of limitations in Manslaughter and Murder.

Cooper wrote a lengthy email to 7 Action News yesterday:

Dear Mr. Kiertzner,

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.

Jessica Cooper