Almost a decade after the incident, a judge decided Wednesday that the case of four former mall security guards charged in connection with the 2014 death of a Black man will be going to trial.
McKenzie Cochran was 25 years old when he died in January 2014 while restrained on the floor of a jewelry store at a local mall in Southfield, Michigan.
Northland Mallsecurity guards Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King and Aaron Maree will each face one count of involuntary manslaughter, according to the Michigan attorney general's office. If convicted, the felony charge carries a 15-year sentence.
"It has been clear through our review of this case that justice would require criminal charges and a trial," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a news release Wednesday.
The four suspects appeared in court Wednesday. They will appear again in court for a pretrial hearing, but a date has not yet been set.
All four men previously pleaded not guilty when charges were announced in October 2021.
On Jan. 28, 2014, Cochran reportedly told the owner of a jewelry store in the Detroit-area mall that "he wanted to kill someone," according to the attorney general's office.
Two security guards then responded to the store for security assistance. When Cochran approached the guards with clenched fists, one guard maced him and both attempted to restrain him on the ground, according to the attorney general's office.
Three additional guards then responded to the scene, the attorney general's office said, taking part in restraining Cochran in order to handcuff him.
"Video evidence shows Cochran remained face down with his arms under his body while the five security guards restrained him. Witnesses at the mall, and subsequent interviews with the guards involved, reported hearing Cochran say he couldn't breathe during the restraint," according to the attorney general's office.
Once they had handcuffed him, guards noticed Cochran was unresponsive and contacted emergency medical technicians, but attempts to revive him at the mall were unsuccessful, the attorney general's office said.
He was declared dead shortly after being transported to a nearby hospital, according to the attorney general's office.
Later that year, the Oakland County prosecutor declined to bring criminal charges against the guards involved.
The case was later revived in 2020 when the Michigan attorney general said it would review the case at the request of Cochran's family. The case earned increased attention in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was pinned to the ground by police in Minneapolis and later died. He also was heard saying "I can't breathe" in cellphone video before his death.
"As part of the Department's review, its Public Integrity Unit (PIU) conducted additional work, interviewed additional witnesses and obtained additional evidence leading to the charges," according to the attorney general's office.
The fifth security guard, who was the first to engage with Cochran, died in 2017.