PONTIAC (WWJ) - Oakland County prosecutors say there won't be any criminal charges in connection with the death of a Ferndale man who was restrained and pepper-sprayed by security guards at Northland Mall in Southfield.
Prosecutor Jessica Cooper admits that security staff at the 8 Mile Road shopping center made a lot of mistakes on the day that an agitated McKenzie Cochran turned up at a jewelry store, threatening to kill someone.
The guards weren't trained, she said, in how to properly restrain a person; and their dispatch sent inaccurate directions to police, which delayed their arrival to the scene by 10 minutes.
But, she said, these failings aren't criminal.
"My job is to not charge when I can't prove," Cooper told reporters Thursday. "If I could prove it, I could charge it."
When security guards approached the 24-year-old Cochran at LA Diamonds jewelry store on Jan. 28, 2014, and asked him to leave, he was reportedly "not cooperative."
The guards then pepper-sprayed and placed Cochran in handcuffs. When police arrived on the scene, they found Cochran had a pulse but wasn't breathing. He was pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour after the confrontation began.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner ruled Cochran's death accidental, saying he died of "position compression asphyxia."
Attorney Gerald Thurswell, who represents the Cochran family, said cell phone video shows Cochran asked for help at least six times as multiple witnesses looked on. He said Cochran clearly couldn't breathe, yet the guards held him down until he died.
"They're absolutely devastated," Thurswell said. "They lost their child and somebody should've been held accountable."
Cooper said it is common for pepper-spray victims to say they can't breathe.
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