Prosecutors in California announced Friday that sheriff’s deputies who tased Chinedu Okobi, an unarmed black man, to death in October after he crossed the street against a red light will not face charges.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the officers’ use of force was justified against 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi and will not seek charges against the deputies, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Wagstaffe said 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.”
Police released a 30-minute video of the incident on Friday, showing that Okobi was approached by a deputy while walking down El Camino Real in Millbrae.
Deputy Joshua Wang initially attempted to stop Okobi after he crossed the street against a red light.
Okobi allegedly refused to cooperate and the deputy called for backup. Three more deputies and a sergeant arrived on the scene.
“You’re gonna get tased, get on the ground now,” Wang can be heard saying in the video.
Deputies attempted to tase Okobi seven times as he called 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 later found that Okobi did not have any drugs or alcohol in his 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.
The newspaper noted that Okobi suffered from an enlarged heart.
His manner of death was classified as a homicide, Wagstaffe said.
Wagstaffe argued that since the officers could not restrain Okobi, use of the Taser was the appropriate next step.
“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 decried the actions of the officers and said they plan to file a lawsuit.
“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.