Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence joins Police Chief Eric Hawkins to pledge a thorough investigation into McKenzie Cochran's death. (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Southfield — Police Chief Eric Hawkins said his department was doing a “complete and thorough” investigation into last month’s death of McKenzie Cochran, who died after a struggle with security guards using pepper spray at Northland Center mall.
Hawkins said the Southfield Police Department and city officials had received calls from people concerned the Jan. 28 incident was being covered up.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Hawkins who was flanked at a news conference Monday by Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and City Council President Sylvia Jordan.
“This is still very much an active and ongoing investigation,” Hawkins said. “In the 13 days since the incident, we have interviewed witnesses and security guards.”
The Police Department is waiting for toxicology reports that could take 40 to 60 days to complete to determine if there might be any underlying medical problems that may have played a part in Cochran’s death.
Hawkins said once toxicology reports are in, investigators will review their findings and present them to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for possible charges.
Cochran, 25, of Ferndale died after a scuffle with at least three security guards at the mall during which he was pepper-sprayed.
Police said the incident occurred after a merchant told guards Cochran was acting suspiciously. The mall general manager said Cochran made threatening statements and became combative after he was approached by three security officers.
“When our officers responded, the individual had a pulse but was not breathing,” said Southfield Police Lt. Nick Loussia shortly after the incident. “The officers assisted paramedics in treating him and he was then transported to Providence Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:40 p.m.”
Brent Reetz, the mall general manager, said Cochran and a companion stood outside a jewelry store Jan. 27.
They left, Loussia said, after the business owner asked if they needed help. Cochran returned to the store alone a day later, when the owner again asked if he needed help.
“The business owner said the man replied, ‘I want to kill somebody,’ ” said Loussia.
The store owner then called security. The guards said they found Cochran breathing heavily with fists clenched, said Loussia.
Reetz said the man became combative when security approached, prompting guards to use pepper spray and handcuff him. Loussia said paramedics and Southfield police were called when the man became unresponsive. No weapons were found on Cochran.
In the crowd at the Monday news conference, a representative of the Southfield chapter of the NAACP, along with state Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, called for increased training/review of private security officers.
Hawkins said investigators are reviewing surveillance tapes and videos taken by witnesses. Anyone who has a video of the incident is asked to contact the Southfield Police Department at (248) 796-5540.