Police Brutality: 2014 Northland Mall Death in the Spotlight After George Floyd’s Death

Published on June 12th, 2020

police brutality thurswell law michiganIn the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, it should come as no surprise that some questionable cases between civilians and police are being revisited. Recent news has reported that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office may receive a request to review an incident from 2014 in which a man from Ferndale died during an altercation with mall security guards.

The Similarities Between McKenzie Cochran and George Floyd

McKenzie Cochran’s death has too many similarities to last month’s death of George Floyd. The young man, age 25, died from position compression asphyxia on the floor of the Northland Shopping Mall in Southfield on January 28, 2014. An African-American man, Cochran had been asked to leave the mall after an employee reported that Cochran was acting suspiciously in and around a jewelry store.

Cochran ultimately struggled with mall security guards, was pepper sprayed, and then pinned to the floor. He could be heard gasping out the words, “I’m not resisting. I can’t breathe.”

Cochran’s final words were almost identical to what Floyd uttered on May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s throat for over eight minutes, noted Gerald Thurswell, a Michigan attorney who represented Cochran’s family in a civil case that settled out of court.

“George Floyd was almost word for word what happened here six years ago,” says Thurswell. “Except no one was charged with anything here. I talked with his family and they are hurting, reliving his death over again. It’s very hard on them.”

Seeking Delayed Justice for Michigan Asphyxiation Case

According to Southfield police chief Elvin Barren, who has spoken with an attorney for the Cochran family, the Cochrans themselves – not their legal representation – would have to make a direct request to reopen the case. Upon having that conversation, Barren says, he would then be able to ask the state Attorney General’s Office to review it for possible charges.

Shortly after Cochran’s death, the Oakland County prosecutor said there was no crime committed because the security guards had no intention of killing Cochran and did not administer any chokeholds. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office had ruled that Cochran’s death was an accident, a decision that Thurswell says hardly makes sense.

“If a drunk driver hits and kills someone, there is going to be some kind of charge – that is negligence,” says Thurswell, who also cites the existence of a cell phone video showing Cochran pinned to the floor by three security guards.

“He could be heard saying he couldn’t breathe and was dying and asked that someone call 911,” says Thurswell. “One of the guards told him, ‘If you can talk, you can breath.’” Southfield police were called to the incident but by the time they arrived Cochran was seated on the floor, handcuffed to a pillar, and he was dead, says Thurswell.

“They were security guards and not trained like police officers but they have many of the same powers,” says Thurswell. “They acted improperly. They acted as judge, jury, and executioners.”

Fighting Police Brutality Against People of Color

People are not satisfied with the outcome of the Cochran case, and there is heightened attention on police violence against people of color. If you or a loved one has been victimized by the police for any reason, you could have a case of police brutality. Contact the Michigan personal injury attorneys at Thurswell Law to get the compensation and justice you deserve. Schedule a consultation by calling (248) 354-2222 today. We do not charge any fees until we win.

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