Prosecutors in California announced Friday that sheriff’s deputies who tased an unarmed black man to death in October will not face charges.
The San Mateo County district attorney’s office will not seek charges against the deputies related to the death of 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the officers’ use of force was justified. He spoke with deputies and witnesses, viewed video recordings of the encounter and reviewed he coroner’s report.
“This is not a case where I am trying to put any blame on Mr. Okobi,” Wagstaffe said Friday. “This was a tragic event and I don’t want to do anything to demonize these deputies or Mr. Okobi in any manner.”
A 30-minute video of the incident, released on Friday, shows that Okobi was being approached by a deputy while walking down El Camino Real in Millbrae, the newspaper reported.
Deputy Joshua Wang initially tried to stop Okobi after he crossed the street against a red light. Okobi allegedly refused to cooperate and the deputy called for help. Three more deputies and a sergeant arrived.
“You’re gonna get tased, get on the ground now,” Wang says in the video.
Deputies tried to tase Okobi seven times as he tried to stumble away and call for help.
“What’d I do?” Okobi can be heard asking while deputies command him to roll over onto his stomach.
Wang is seen hitting Okobi with a baton and Okobi strikes Wang in the face.
Sgt. David Weidner can be heard on the video telling paramedics that Okobi had "probably got a lot of drugs on board, which explains why he was fighting so hard.”
A toxicology report, however, did not find any drugs or alcohol in Okobi’s system, according to the newspaper.
His cause of death was listed cardiac arrest following physical exertion, physical restraint and electro-muscular disruption from the Taser shocks.
Okobi suffered from an enlarged heart, the newspaper noted.
His manner of death was classified as a homicide, Wagstaffe said.
Since the officers could not restrain Okobi, use of the Taser was the appropriate next step, Wagstaffe said.
“Unanimous opinion of my team was in accord with the expert we hired, that under these circumstances, it was a reasonable use of force,” Wagstaffe said. “There’s not an ethical prosecutor in this state that would have found a reason to charge the deputies.”
Okobi’s family, however, has decried the actions of the officers and they plan to file a lawsuit, the newspaper noted.
“It’s clear the district attorney doesn’t intend for there to be any consequences at all,” said Ebele Okobi, Chinedu Okobi’s sister. “We feel that the district attorney is completely unwilling to protect citizens and the sheriff is completely uninterested in ensuring police officers don’t kill unarmed citizens.”
This case is San Mateo County's third Taser death in a year.