San Mateo, CA – The San Mateo district attorney released video of the incident that led to the death of 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi just a few days after his office announced that none of the officers involved would be charged (video below).
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced on March 1 that his office had investigated the “horrible tragedy” and decided not to bring charges against any of the police officers involved, CBS News reported.
Wagstaffe said that an independent investigation had determined that all of the officers’ action were lawful under California law.
The incident occurred on Oct. 3, 2018 in the 1400-block of El Camino Real in Millbrae, according to report released by the district attorney’s office.
The dashcam video of the incident began just before Okobi crossed the street against the light.
Wagstaffe explained that San Mateo County deputies had been instructed to stringently enforce jaywalking laws after several pedestrians were struck by vehicles, the Mercury News reported.
The video showed a deputy pulled up beside Okobi and told him to “hold up a minute,” twice.
Okobi ignored the deputy and continued walking, the video showed.
Thus began a four-minute game whereby Okobi crossed back and forth across the street while an officer followed him in a police car.
Each time the officer caught up enough to talk to Okobi, he took off in another direction, at times walking down the very narrow center median of the roadway, the video showed.
“Let’s go talk on the sidewalk,” the officer called out to Okobi in the video.
Okobi took off in the opposite direction.
Additional police units arrived on the scene to assist the first deputy, and initially, Okobi appeared afraid and put his hands up in the air, the video showed.
But then Okobi ignored police commands and struck a female deputy who was the first to approach him, the video showed.
Four deputies surrounded Okobi and tried to take him into custody. He ignored commands to get on the ground.
Officers warned Okobi that he would be Tased if he didn’t comply, but the man broke away from them and ran out into the street, waving his arms in the air, the video showed.
Three officers pulled out their Tasers and pointed them at Okobi, and then one fired his Taser at the suspect, the Mercury News reported.
Okobi rolled around on the pavement in the middle of the road screaming for help, and was Tased two more times.
But the video showed that despite the Taser charges, Okobi got up and began running across the street again.
The deputies chased him and caught up across the street, where one deputy tried to hit Okobi in the leg with a baton.
An enraged Okobi punched the officer in the face, prompting yet another officer to deploy pepper spray, the video showed.
But the pepper spray missed its intended target and the deputy sprayed his fellow deputies instead of Okobi, the Mercury News reported.
Throughout the struggle in the video, one officer can be heard coaching the others to hang in there and “stay in the fight” despite having been pepper sprayed as Okobi fought them violently.
An officer attempted to Tase Okobi four more times, but those attempts to subdue him were ineffective because the prongs of the device were disconnected from the suspect by then, according to the Mercury News.
Emergency medical personnel reported that Okobi was still moving when they arrived on the scene, but they lost his pulse shortly thereafter.
He was pronounced dead at Mills Peninsula Hospital about 80 minutes after he initially encountered deputies, the Mercury News reported.
In the audio recording of the encounter, deputies speculated that Okobi was on drugs when he fought them, but the toxicology report from the medical examiner showed no evidence of drugs in his system.
The autopsy report said Okobi died from “cardiac arrest following physical exertion, physical restraint, and recent electro-muscular disruption,” according to the Mercury News.
Okobi’s sister is a high-level executive at Facebook, and said she was “devastated” but “not surprised” by Wagstaffe’s decision not to charge the officers who fought her brother.
“What this decision shows to us, to our family — it tells us that we are not safe in San Mateo County,” Ebele Okobi said. “And if you’re black, or mentally ill, or if you need help, you could be electrocuted to death by those who are meant to protect and serve.”
Activists called for a moratorium on Taser use and the establishment of a civilian oversight committee for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, the Mercury News reported.
San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos issued his condolences to Okobi’s family but said he had no plans to discontinue Taser use by deputies from his department.
Watch the altercation unfold in the video below. WARNING - Graphic Content: