AG to review 2014 Northland Mall death following George Floyd case

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday her office will review a 2014 case involving the death of a Ferndale man during an altercation with mall security guards — a case with similarities to last month's death of George Floyd.

McKenzie Cochrane, 25, died from position compression asphyxia on the floor of the Northland Shopping Mall in Southfield on Jan. 28, 2014. Cochrane, an African American, was asked to leave the mall after an employee reported he was acting suspiciously inside and outside a jewelry store.

In a subsequent struggle with guards, Cochrane was pepper sprayed and pinned to the floor, during which he could be heard gasping, “I’m not resisting — I can’t breathe.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The case was investigated by the Southfield Police Department and reviewed by the Oakland County prosecutor, which decided not to charge any of the security staff. Both agencies have requested the attorney general to review the case, Nessel's office said.

Cochran's family supports the decision, the attorney general's office said.

“My office will conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of this case to determine whether any additional action should have been taken in response to Mr. Cochran’s death,” Nessel said in a statement. “If the evidence warrants additional action, we will make efforts to ensure justice is served.”

His final words were nearly identical to those of Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd's throat for more than eight minutes, said Gerald Thurswell, an attorney who represented Cochrane’s family in a civil case ultimately settled out of court.

“George Floyd was almost word for word for what happened here six years ago,” Thurswell told The Detroit News earlier this month. “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.”

Thurswell said a cellphone video shows Cochrane was pinned on the floor by three security guards, with one guard’s knee to his back.

In September 2014, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said there was no crime because there was no intention to kill and no chokeholds by guards. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Cochrane's death was an accident.

Four Minneapolis officers have been charged in Floyd's death.

Southfield police were called by the mall guards but given wrong directions to where the incident occurred inside the mall, Thurswell said. When police arrived, Cochrane was seated on the floor, handcuffed to a pillar. He was dead.

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

A month after the death, Cochrane’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Oakland Circuit Court seeking more than $800 million in damages from the mall, two related corporations and security officers.

Thurswell declined to provide details of the eventual settlement, stating there was a nondisclosure agreement forbidding any discussion of the complaint.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_