California prosecutors will not file charges against five San Mateo County deputies involved in a deadly Taser incident last year.
Chinedu Okobi, 36, died Oct. 3, 2018 in Millbrae, a city about 30 miles northwest of Silicon Valley.
The sheriff’s office said Okobi was running in and out of traffic and assaulted a deputy during a confrontation. In trying to subdue Okobi, deputies deployed Tasers several times.
Okobi’s sister, Ebele Okobi — Facebook’s public policy director for Africa — said in a post in October on the social media platform that her family had seen a video of the incident, which she called murder.
San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe told CNN last year that Okobi’s family and their attorneys had viewed a 25-30 minute composite video — made up of witness cell phone video, surveillance footage and deputies’ dashcam footage. Deputies do not wear body cameras, officials said.
Friday, the district attorney’s office released the video along with a statement.
“While the loss of life following contact with law enforcement is a tragic and traumatic event for all those involved, we have determined based upon a review of all the evidence that the use of force by the deputies under the circumstances encountered by them on that date was lawful,” the district attorney’s office said.
Ebele Okobi said she was outraged by the decision.
“We are devastated. But not surprised,” she wrote on Facebook. “This decision shows continued impunity, and tells us that we are not safe in San Mateo County. That if you are Black, or mentally ill, or in need of help, or simply walking down the street, you can be electrocuted to death by those meant to protect and serve.”
The video is edited to include dashboard cameras, a witness video and audio from the deputies and Okobi.
The video, released Friday, records Dep. Joshua Wang telling Okobi to stop so he can talk to him after the deputy saw him cross the street illegally. Okobi keeps going and walks back across the street. When the deputy goes to stop him, Wang calls dispatch telling them the man is running across the street and in traffic.
Several minutes into the video — this part recorded by another deputy’s dashboard camera — several other law enforcement vehicles arrive with sirens activated. Okobi walks away from them and swipes at the deputy with his left arm as the deputy approaches on foot and tries to grab his arm.
Two deputies run toward Okobi, who begins to put his hands up. As the deputies grab him, Okobi turns and a deputy tells him to stop resisting. Another deputy warns him he is going to get Tased.
Deputies try to get Okobi’s hands behind his back, but he breaks away, is hit by the prongs from the Taser and falls in the street.
The edited video shifts to the recording made by a witness who is about 10 feet away. A deputy fires a second Taser.
Okobi flails on the ground as deputies repeatedly tell him to get on his stomach and hit him once more with the Taser prongs.
“What’d I do?” Okobi yells.
“Get them off me,” he says repeatedly, including once as he reaches for the prongs when hit for the third time.
A sergeant, one of two additional deputies to arrive, leans down and tries to get a hold of Okobi’s left arm.
“I’m lost,” Okobi says. “Spread the word of God.”
Okobi gets up quickly, pushing away one deputy as he does so. A fourth Taser, labeled by the DA as only briefly effective, hits him and brings him to the ground again. As he sits up he shouts, “Somebody help me! Somebody help me!”
He stands up again, begins walking, takes a few hops and jogs away as the deputies pursue.
One deputy swings at him with a baton and he punches the cop. Other deputies tackle Okobi. With the action now on the other side of the street, it is difficult so see what is happening but the audio indicates the deputies are putting their suspect in handcuffs.
Paramedics arrive about eight minutes later and while they are attending to Okobi, he appears to go into cardiac arrest and a paramedic begins chest compressions.
After they treat him for 10 minutes on scene, emergency workers put Okobi on a gurney and take him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The DA’s report says Deputy Wang’s Taser was fired seven times, and delivered a five-second charge three times. On a fourth try it stunned Okobi for one second.
A pathology report from the coroner’s office says Okobi died of cardiac arrest after physical exertion and restraint and recent electro-muscular disruption.
While deputies said they thought Okobi was on drugs, the report found no drugs or alcohol in his blood samples. The coroner’s report noted that Okobi was 6-foot-2 and 333 pounds in the morgue, and that while he had heart disease, it didn’t contribute to the immediate cause of death.