SOUTHFIELD (WWJ/AP) – Police say a 25-year-old man has died following a confrontation at a metro Detroit shopping mall during which he was pepper-sprayed and restrained by security guards.
Southfield police said the incident happened Tuesday evening at Northland Center on Greenfield and 8 Mile roads.
When police arrived on the scene, they found McKenzie Cochran had a pulse but wasn’t breathing. Lt. Nick Loussia said Cochran, a Ferndale resident, was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour after the confrontation began.
An autopsy was performed Wednesday, although a cause of death is still pending. Authorities are also awaiting toxicology results, which could take weeks. No charges have been filed.
According to reports, Cochran was “standing suspiciously” outside the LA Diamonds jewelry store on Monday and was asked to leave. He returned to the store on Tuesday, “looking angry” through the showcase windows. The business owner apparently went to talk to Cochran and that’s when police say he threatened to kill someone. Security guards responded to the scene but Cochran was “not cooperative.” The guards then pepper-sprayed and placed Cochran in handcuffs.
Attorney Gerald Thurswell, who is representing the man’s family, told The Detroit News that cellphone video shows Cochran being restrained and beaten by the security guards, “saying he couldn’t breathe and they held him down until he died.” Loussia said there appeared to be no signs of blunt force trauma, which would indicate a beating.
Ron Scott, a spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, described the incident as “on-camera suffocation.”
“You have a person on the ground, you have your knee on his back. You essentially are chiding the man when he’s asking to breathe. Essentially, this was barbaric, odious and despicable. It’s one of the worst examples I’ve ever seen of inhumanity and a lack of professionalism in that process,” Scott told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “From this video, it appears to me there was criminal culpability.”
Scott said the question now will be to figure out whether or not the security guards contributed Cochran’s death.
“Security guards are not police officers. They are supposed to call law enforcement officials as necessary… but they are not supposed to engage in activity which enhances the possibility of escalation of violence,” he said. “There was no basis with three individuals standing over one person, who was detained, to actually engage in this kind of barbaric activity.”
Brent Reetz, general manager of Northland Center, told the Detroit Free Press, the Cochran became combative and “pumped up his muscles” when security guards approached him, and that’s why they restrained him. Reetz said the guards weren’t aware Cochran had stopped breathing during the scuffle.
Scott said the mall should be held responsible and take steps to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
“The citizens should be protected. This has happened to young people, especially to young African American people, quite a bit at Northland Mall and the mall needs to look at cleaning up its act and changing its behavior in terms of how they treat young people and people who may have mental illness,” he said.
Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed the incident or who may have taken video of the incident to contact the Southfield Police Department at 248-796-5500.
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