The death Ferndale man who died after a scuffle with two private security guards at a Southfield mall in January was an accident, the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office has determined.
McKenzie Cochran, 25, died of “position compression asphyxia,” after pressure was applied to his back while he was on the ground in a struggle with security officers on Jan. 28, causing asphyxia, struggled with security guards at the Northland Mall, WJBK, the FOX affiliate in Detroit, reports.
Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Cheryl Loewe told the Detroit Free Press the security guards were doing their jobs and acting appropriately.
“No purposeful act” was involved, she said.
Dr. Werner Spitz, a forensic pathologist interviewed by the television station. explained how “position compression asphyxia” occurs.
"They put him face down on the ground, that it is in prone position, face down, and then they applied pressure to his back and this lead to his inability to breath, to expand his chest due to the pressure on him, and as a result of that he died," Spitz said.
Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins said his department was investigating the use of force by security guards at the Northland Center mall, where the confrontation occurred, but would not comment further. Cochran was pepper-sprayed after a jewelry store owner called for help after he reported feeling threatened.
Loewe, the deputy medical examiner, said Cochran was agitated, was under the influence of marijuana and had made delusional statements that he wanted to kill someone, the Free Press said. The pepper spray did not contribute to Cochran’s death, and witnesses told investigators that Cochran had “superhuman strength” as he wrestled with the guards, Loewe added.
Gerald Thurswell, a Southfield attorney who is representing Cochran’s family, called the characterization of Cochran’s resistance as superhuman “the most preposterous thing in the whole world.”
He told the nespaper that when someone is pepper-sprayed they have trouble breathing and tend to panic.
The attorney blasted the findings of the Medical Examiner’s Office and said cell phone video of the incident showed Cochran telling the guards who were sitting on top of him that he could not breathe, the Free Press reported.
“(The security guards) put him on the ground, they crushed his chest to the ground and caused him to be asphyxiated. They killed him,” Thurswell said. “They executed him, they really did. They became the judge and jury, and they executed him.”
Cochran’s family has filed an $800 million lawsuit that names the mall, the security guards and the company they represent as defendants. The lawsuit claims that while Cochran was on the ground, he said, “I can’t breathe ... trust me, I’m not resisting ... let me go ... I’m going to die ... call 911,” the lawsuit says.