SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — A death that played out strikingly similar to the killing of George Floyd at a Southfield mall left the family of 25-year-old McKenzie Cochran devastated.
The verdict in the case involving George Floyd’s murder has tremendously impacted the Cochran family, and now the attorney general for the state of Michigan is updating the status of his case.
“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Those were the screams that were caught on cell phone video in January 2014. The now-demolished Northland Mall is where security officers pepper-sprayed and held down McKenzie in the final moments of his life. A knee was also placed in his back, restricting his breathing.
“Did you ever witness security on top of Mr. Cochran?” A family attorney asked one security officer during a civil deposition. He replied “No.”
When asked a follow-up question, “Did you hear him saying I can’t breathe?” The officer again stated, “I didn’t hear that” despite his head being 5 to 6 inches away.
First-hand accounts of former security officers are now part of the review by the attorney general, which is ongoing after 10 months. In their civil case depiction, those officers also denied hearing cries for help. One saying, “During this whole time, he never spoke to anybody when he was handcuffed. I’m saying he never spoke to me.”
McKenzie’s brother, Michael Cochran, tells us looking back at the video and seeing the parallels to George Floyd have been hard for the family.
“It just floods your mind with so many memories,” Michael said. The former police officer is broken-hearted and tells us his brother and George Floyd both deserved to live.
Instead, McKenzie died begging for air. He adds that he hopes for charges to be filed.
“With the cases being so similar in nature, I can only hope that would be the case,” Michael said.
An autopsy showed McKenzie‘s death was caused by positional asphyxia, another factor being weighed by the Attorney General. She agreed to speak with 7 Action News recently after Southfield police asked for another review in 2020.
“We’ve had the case for 10 months, but there are certain things in the discovery process that are time-consuming and more important than anything is getting it right,” says AG Dana Nessel.
Family attorney Milt Greenman also adds, “I do think and have a positive thought process the AG will find criminal activity. The Cochran family would feel vindicated.”
Greenman further says if McKenzie was white, he wouldn’t have been treated that way.
“We want to make sure we get it correct, and we’re working very hard on that case, aggressively and will make a determination as soon as it’s realistic and possible,” Nessel added.
For now, McKenzie‘s family says disturbing images and chilling admissions by security officers still haunt them every day, including one who admitted in civil court that they said, “Whatever you do, do not let him up. Don’t let him get up.” Another adding, "I found out later that night he was dead.”
It’s unknown when a decision by the AG could come, but one crucial development was her own statement, crediting the jury for reaching a correct verdict in George Floyd’s case. To this date, attorneys for the security officers have declined comment.