San Mateo County officials are looking into the death of an unarmed black man who died shortly after being arrested and Tased by sheriff’s deputies two weeks ago.
As USA Today reports, 36-year-old Chinedu Valentine Okobi was reportedly running in and out of traffic on a busy street in Millbrae, Calif. on Oct. 3 when five San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies attempted to arrest him. The police claim that Okobi “immediately assaulted” them as they exited their vehicle, causing at least one of the deputies to Tase him, reports KQED radio.
“[Deputies] were attempting to get control of him as he resisted, and during the course of that a Taser was discharged,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told KQED. “At this point we’re still investigating how many times.”
Okobi, a Morehouse grad and brother of Facebook executive Ebele Okobi, may have been suffering a mental breakdown, according to USA Today. After being arrested, Okobi was transferred to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.
According to KQED, sheriff’s officers in San Mateo County don’t wear body cameras, though Wagstaffe said dash cam footage is available of the fatal incident. Additionally, “numerous cellphone videos” were shot by witnesses on the busy road. KQED reports those witnesses have also been interviewed by investigators.
At the moment, it’s unclear what role the stun gun may have played in Okobi’s death. Okobi went into cardiac arrest shortly after being tackled by the deputies and Tased multiple times, according to USA Today. It’s also unclear whether more than one deputy used their stun gun on Okobi.
If Okobi’s death was caused by the stun gun, it would be considered a homicide, Wagstaffe told KQED, though the District Attorney’s office would still need to evaluate whether the officers were “justified” in their actions, the site writes.
The officers involved in the arrest have been identified as John DeMartini, Alyssa Lorenzatti, Joshua Wang, Bryan Watt and Sgt. David Weidner.
Chinedu’s sister, Ebele, who directs Facebook’s public policy for Africa, told USA Today she wants an investigation into the tactics deputies used on her brother, like why they kept sending electric shocks into her brother’s body instead of seeking medical attention, or whether they received any crisis intervention training for people with mental health issues.
Ebele also says she wants her brother’s death to open eyes in Silicon Valley, just miles away from where Chinedu was confronted by cops.
“I think this has helped people who aren’t African American and who aren’t in the African American community recognize that this is something that every black person faces,” Okobi told USA Today.
“There’s a part of me that’s angry that this is the reality for everybody black I know and that people can live completely oblivious to that reality,” she said.
Chinedu Okobi’s family told the press their loved one was a poet and devoted father to his 12-year-old daughter. He had spent the last decade managing increasingly serious mental illness, his family told The Guardian.