Michigan attorney general to review 2014 case where black man died at the hands of mall cops

McKenzie Cochran said, "I can't breathe," when seen pinned down by mall cops.

June 17, 2020, 4:14 PM

Michigan's attorney general said her office intends to review the 2014 case of a black man who died while being apprehended by mall security officers, after protesters shined new light on the incident in recent weeks.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday evening that the Southfield Police Department and Oakland County Prosecutor made a request for her office to review the incident that led to McKenzie Cochran's death while he was being detained in the now-closed Northland Mall.

His detainment by three white mall security officers, which reminded many of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis, was captured on video but didn't result in any criminal charges.

A mall employee called security after Cochran allegedly caused a disturbance in a store, according to reports. Mall cops pepper-sprayed the 25-year-old and pinned him on the ground, with one officer putting his leg on Cochran's back, according to the video.

Cochran is heard in the video screaming, "I can't breathe!" And one of the officers is heard responding, "If you can talk, you can breathe."

Cochran went limp and died shortly thereafter. An autopsy report determined his cause of death was "positional asphyxia," according to investigators.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper chose not to charge the mall officers at the time.

Cooper said in a statement to ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ on June 11 that her office reviewed all evidence in the incident and consulted with the Justice Department before making that decision.

"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," the statement read.

Demonstrators gather at the Michigan State Capitol on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Lansing, Mich.
Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA Today Network

During recent protests, activists outside the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office have demanded she reopen the case. Some called for Cooper to be voted out of office, according to WXYZ.

The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office didn't immediately return messages to ABC News seeking comment after Nessel's announcement.

"If the evidence warrants additional action, we will make efforts to ensure justice is served," Nessel said in a statement.

Gerald Thurswell, an attorney representing Cochran's family, told ABC News the victim's family is happy the case is under a new review. He said that at the very least, the officers involved should have been charged with manslaughter.

"Those officers," he told ABC News, "need to be held accountable."

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