McKenzie Cochran, 25, was pinned to the floor by security guards at the shopping mall on Jan. 28, 2014, according to authorities.
Witnesses said Cochran was hit with pepper spray and struggled with security guards. His death was later ruled accidental position, compression, asphyxia, according to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office.
Witnesses said Cochran could be heard saying, “I’m not resisting -- I can’t breathe.”
“We are confirming that there was an incident involving an adult male who was reported to be loitering outside one of our jewelry stores,” officials with the mall said in a 2014 statement. “The male became combative when approached by our security officers. Pepper spray was administered by one of our security officers for his own safety.”
At the time, an Oakland County prosecutor said the guards were poorly trained but had no intent to harm Cochran. Jessica Cooper said she had consulted experts, including the U.S. Justice Department, and declined to file charges.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel reopened the case in 2020. Now, four people -- Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberline, Gaven King and Aaron Maree -- have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Two of the men were arraigned Wednesday (Oct. 13) at 46th District Court.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz said in 2014 that pressure to Cochran’s back while he was face down on the ground caused asphyxia.
“They put him face down on the ground, that is in prone position, face down, and then they applied pressure to his back, and this led to his inability to breathe, to expand his chest due to the pressure on him, and as a result of that, he died,” Spitz said.
Representatives of the National Action Network held a peaceful protest and prayer vigil at the mall in February 2014.
The mall closed in 2015.