McKenzie Cochran was the first to yell “I can’t breathe!” when he lost his life at the hands of the authorities. What is happening in our world?!
Before Eric Garner, there was McKenzie Cochran, a 25-year-old Black man who screamed “I can’t breathe” six times in Northland Center Mall in Southfield, Michigan after he’d been forcefully detained by three security guards in January 2014. Cochran died at the hands of those guards. According to reports, the security guards sprayed him with pepper spray in order to subdue Cochran. What’s worse is that the guards responded to Cochran’s urgent cry for help with, “If you can talk, you can breathe.”
Southfield Police say Cochran was seen outside a store a couple of days ago and had revisited the store Tuesday evening. The owner felt uncomfortable and called for the mall security. You know, because people don’t go to stores more than once. Northland Center Mall General Manager Brent Reetz says Cochran was loitering outside the LA Jewelry store and personnel were concerned. Local news is reporting that someone from the store claimed Cochran verbally threatened them. Hmmm…
Security went to talk to Cochran and they claimed he wasn’t compliant. A struggle began between the guards and Cochran, then they all held him down. From the video, it looks as if one officer is holding down his legs, another is holding down his head and the other is holding him down at his torso, but it was the pepper spray that obstructed Cochran’s breathing.
After he screamed, “I can’t breathe,” reminiscent of Staten Island man, Eric Garner, who was killed by police officers who subdued him using a prohibited chokehold. Garner’s last words have become a rallying cry for his supporters, who protest while wearing T-shirts that say, “I Can’t Breathe” on them.
Shortly after the officer’s nasty and inhuman reply to Cochran’s claims he couldn’t breathe, he passed out. That’s when the guards called for backup and paramedics. By the time the Southfield Police arrived, Cochran had a pulse, but was not responsive. He was transported to Providence hospital where he died.
The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Cochran’s death an accident in March, naming the cause of death as position compression asphyxia. Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said the guards weren’t trained to restrain Cochran properly.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Cochran’s family. Even though this happened at the beginning of the year, Cochran is still another Black man’s life is wasted at the hands of authorities who thought he was up to no good after mall workers felt threatened by Cochran’s presence and recurring visits to their store. While we have no idea what type of exchanges Cochran may have had with these people in the mall, them feeling threatened by him just being there is indicative of where we are in America–Black men are scary and their lives don’t matter.
What’s worse? The guards have not been charged.