Michigan’s attorney general says new evidence and fresh eyes have led to involuntary manslaughter charges against four security guards in the 2014 death of a Black man
DETROIT — New evidence and a fresh look led to charges against four security guards in the 2014 death of a Black man who stopped breathing during a struggle at a suburban Detroit mall, Michigan’s attorney general said Thursday.
McKenzie Cochran’s case got renewed attention last year during a local race for prosecutor and amid outrage over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police.
“Law enforcement doesn’t always get things right,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel, referring to wrongful convictions. “But it is equally important for us to recognize that justice is also undermined when those who are guilty of abhorrent crimes are allowed to go free.”
Cochran, 25, struggled with guards and was hit with pepper spray at Northland Mall in Southfield nearly eight years ago. He was trapped on the ground and handcuffed before dying of compression asphyxiation.
Cochran “repeatedly told security guards that he could not breathe,” Nessel said, citing witnesses.
Moments earlier, a jewelry store had reported that Cochran was making threats.
Jessica Cooper, the Oakland County prosecutor at the time, declined to file charges, saying the guards had no intent to harm Cochran.
But Nessel this week filed involuntary manslaughter charges against four men, claiming death occurred during negligent acts. They are Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King and Aaron Maree.
“We do have additional evidence that (Cooper) did not have in 2014,” Nessel said. “Whether or not that information, had it been available, would have made a difference in her assessment, I can’t tell you.”
King’s attorney said the charge wasn’t warranted. Seiberling’s attorney didn’t return a call seeking comment. Hamilton and Maree were expected to appear in court Thursday.
Nessel acknowledged that evidence gathered during a lawsuit by Cochran’s family was shared with investigators. She also suggested the guards didn’t follow internal policies about the use of handcuffs.
Karen McDonald, the new prosecutor in Oakland County, raised the Cochran case in her campaign to defeat Cooper. She welcomed the charges.
“We have moved forward as a community, as a state, as a country, and we no longer swipe these things to the side when we know there’s been wrongdoing,” McDonald said at Nessel’s news conference.
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