KEY POINTS

  • McKenzie Cochran, 25, screamed "I can't breathe" while five mall guards pinned him down for nine minutes
  • The guards were not charged for Cochran's death, which happened in 2014 at a Michigan mall
  • The state's attorney general is reopening Cochran's case upon the request of the county prosecutor 

Six years before George Floyd screamed, "I can't breathe!" as a cop pressed his knee on the former's neck during an arrest, an African American man from Michigan also said the same words repeatedly after five mall security guards sat on his back when he was apprehended.

McKenzie Cochran, 25, was killed during this incident at the Northland Mall in Southfield, Michigan, in 2014. The autopsy revealed the cause of death as compression asphyxiation.

However, no charges were made against the security guards who pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and held Cochran down to the ground for nine minutes after they received reports that a suspicious man was muttering he would kill somebody as he stood in front of a jewelry store.

After eight months of investigation, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper determined what happened was an accident and that there was no criminal intent from guards who were poorly trained. She believed she would not win the case.

But Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is reopening Cochran's case following Floyd's death, which spurned nationwide protests against the actions of law enforcers. According to the Detroit Metro Times, Cooper and the police department welcomed the reopening of the case, which also had the support of Cochran's family.

"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,” the attorney general said. "If the evidence warrants additional action, we will make efforts to ensure justice is served.”

police-850054_1920 The six-year-old case of an African American man, who also screamed he couldn't breathe while pinned down during his arrest, will be reopened in Michigan. Photo: Pixabay

According to USA Today, it was Cooper who wrote Nessel for a review after protesters stormed her office and criticized her lack of action on this six-year-old case.

Michael Cochran, the victim's brother, told Fox 2 Detroit he was confused and devastated by his brother's death, but is relieved to know their voices in the minority are now being heard.

The family's lawyer, Gerald Thurswell, also said if McKenzie's death made national headlines six years ago, perhaps the death of Floyd would have been avoided.

"[Had] it made national TV, and everyone saw that when somebody says they can't breathe and you hold them down and then they die, you're going to be charged," Thurswell said.