The mother of a 25-year-old who died under mysterious circumstances while in the custody of mall cops in Oakland County, Michigan, said there is one word for what happened to her son: murder.
Mckenzie Cochran died after an altercation with security guards at Northland Mall. Cochran was reportedly loitering near a jewelry store, and the proprietor felt threatened. Mall cops intervened, knocked him on the ground, pepper sprayed him, and restrained him, according to WXYZ Action News.
By the time local police arrived, Cochran was not breathing. He died en route to the hospital.
It’s unclear exactly what happened. Cochran had no obvious injuries. A medical examiner said the investigation could take weeks.
But a video of Cochran’s arrest shows police on top of Cochran, holding him down while he repeatedly screams, “I can’t breathe!”
“What we know is that the security guards put him on the floor, handcuffed him, and they had pepper-sprayed him,” said Gerald Thurswell, an attorney for the Cochran family, in a statement to The Detroit Free Press. “Pepper spray constricts your airways. It’s pretty clear that [the cops] caused his death.”
A spokesperson for Northland Mall’s security service said Cochran had threatened to kill someone, necessitating police intervention.
But Cochran’s mother said that doesn’t sound like her son.
“Mckenzie had a quiet spirit,” said Teresa Cochran in a statement. “He was not a person to go around threatening anyone. What was done to him was unspeakable.”
Members of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality noted the racial element of the case and suggested that mall cops are unduly fearful of African-American males like Cochran.