8 Years Later, Charges Filed Against Detroit Mall Security Guards in Man's Death

Michigan's attorney general announced charges against four mall security guards in the death of McKenzie Cochran at a Detroit mall almost eight years ago.

Amid the outrage over the death of George Floyd, Cochran's case saw renewed interest and recognition. New evidence provided to authorities led to the charges against the men.

Allegedly, the security guards hit Cochran with pepper spray at Northland Mall.

Moments before the struggle between Cochran and security guards, a jewelry store had reported that Cochran was making threats.

According to witnesses, Cochran was trapped on the floor and handcuffed before dying of compression asphyxiation, after he "repeatedly told security guards that he could not breathe," Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Witnesses said Cochran was heard saying: "I'm not resisting — I can't breathe."

The Oakland County prosecutor at the time, Jessica Cooper, declined to file charges, claiming the guards had no intent to harm Cochran.

But Nessel charged Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King and Aaron Maree with involuntary manslaughter, alleging Cochran's death occurred due to negligent acts performed by the guards.

"Law enforcement doesn't always get things right," said Nessel, referring to the previous convictions. "But it is equally important for us to recognize that justice is also undermined when those who are guilty of abhorrent crimes are allowed to go free."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Michigan AG defends man's death at mall
New evidence turns attention to McKenzie Cochran's case. Attorney General Dana Nessel announces charges for several security guards from Northland Mall in the 2014 death of McKenzie Cochran during a news conference in Detroit on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 Max Ortiz/AP

"We do have additional evidence that (Cooper) did not have in 2014," Nessel said. "Whether or not that information, had it been available, would have made a difference in her assessment, I can't tell you."

"My client and his family are in absolute disbelief," said George Gostias, an attorney for King, noting the number of years since Cochran's death and the previous legal conclusion.

King's attorney said the charge wasn't warranted. Seiberling's attorney didn't return a call seeking comment. Hamilton and Maree were expected to appear in court Thursday.

Nessel acknowledged that evidence gathered during a lawsuit by Cochran's family was shared with investigators. She also suggested the guards didn't follow internal policies about the use of handcuffs.

Karen McDonald, the new prosecutor in Oakland County, raised the Cochran case in her campaign to defeat Cooper. She welcomed the charges.

"We have moved forward as a community, as a state, as a country, and we no longer swipe these things to the side when we know there's been wrongdoing," McDonald said at Nessel's news conference.