Showing posts with label Sgt. David Weidner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sgt. David Weidner. Show all posts

The family of Chinedu Okobi sues San Mateo County deputies over deadly Taser arrest

The family of a Melanin man who died after he was repeatedly shocked with a Taser last year has filed a pair of federal lawsuits against San Mateo County and also the five sheriff’s deputies involved in the fatal arrest, which started when authorities sought to prevent him for jaywalking on a busy street in Millbrae.

A civil rights and decease lawsuit filed Friday by Chinedu Okobi’s mother accuses the deputies of racially profiling the 36-year-old man as he walked down El Camino Real on the afternoon of Oct. 3. It also alleges that the deputies used excessive force once they shocked Okobi with the Taser and used the spray can as they took him into custody after he refused their commands to prevent and resisted arrest.

Another lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of Okobi’s 12-year-old daughter, similarly accuses the deputies of using excessive force and violating his civil rights.

The deputies were cleared of any criminal charges for the arrest in March. San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe said his review found the conduct of Sgt. David Weidner and Deputies John DeMartini, Alyssa Lorenzatti, Joshua Wang, and Bryan Watt — including the choice to prevent Okobi and therefore the force they want to take him into custody — was lawful.

Ebele Okobi, the sister of Chinedu and a Facebook executive whose posts about her brother’s death brought international attention to the case, said the family is “seeking justice within the civil courts, where the criminal justice system has failed.”

Okobi’s mother, Amaka Okobi, wiped away tears at a group discussion Friday as attorneys representing the family contended deputies unnecessarily escalated the encounter along with her son and used dangerous tactics to arrest him.

“We hope the legacy of this can be that it requires more oversight of enforcement which there are consequences when enforcement oversteps,” Ebele Okobi said. “It isn't a legacy we wanted him to possess, but now that we are during this situation, that’s what we hope his legacy is.”

An outside attorney hired to represent town County and therefore the Sheriff’s Office didn't directly reply to the allegations within the lawsuits Friday.

“The county recognizes the tragic nature of this unintended loss of life, and its impact on everyone involved and on the community,” attorney Warren Metlitzky of the port of entry firm Conrad and Metlitzky said during a statement. “The county intends to defend itself in court against these claims and can not litigate the matter within the press.”

A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman didn't reply to questions about the status of the office’s internal investigation into Okobi’s arrest.

Amaka Okobi is represented in her lawsuit by Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris. Christina Okobi, Chinedu’s daughter, is represented by l. a. attorney Carl Douglas.

Douglas, best known for his work on the O.J. Simpson defense, said the 2 cases likely are consolidated into one lawsuit.

Okobi was the person to die after being shocked with a Taser by enforcement in San Mateo County last year. In each case, Wagstaffe found the officers or deputies involved acted appropriately.

Burris joined local activists in calling for a moratorium on the utilization of the weapons by San Mateo County enforcement until “they receive additional training on the way to use Tasers appropriately.” Burris also required the Sheriff’s Office to implement training to forestall racism.

Footage of Okobi’s arrest — taken from witnesses and deputies’ dashboard cameras — shows the encounter started when Wang watched Okobi cross El Camino Real near Millwood Drive outside of the crosswalk. Wagstaffe said deputies had been ordered to stringently enforce jaywalking laws within the area following pedestrian collisions, but critics have charged they might not have similarly stopped a man for walking outside a crosswalk.

“He wasn't wanted for love or money in the least but being a Black walking the streets of Millbrae,” Douglas said.

Wang then tried to prevent Okobi, who gave the impression to disregard his commands and walk off.

Over the following three minutes, the video shows Wang, together with three other deputies and a sergeant, struggling to arrest Okobi, who refused several of their commands. Wang, the sole deputy to use his Taser, deployed the weapon seven times during the confrontation; Okobi was shocked with the Taser’s full charge 3 times, for five seconds every time, then a fourth time for about one second.

At one conversion he was Tasered, Okobi punched Wang. The punch was a key inconsistency between the video of Okobi’s fatal arrest and therefore the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office’s initial statements about the encounter. Authorities had claimed Okobi “immediately assaulted” Wang when the deputy tried to prevent him when of course the punch happened much later within the arrest. The Sheriff’s Office also claimed Okobi was running in and out of traffic before the encounter when he was actually walking.

On Friday, March 1, 2019, several dozen demonstrators gathered in Millbraenear where Chinedu Okobi was tasered during a struggle with San MateoCounty Sheriff’s Office deputies on Oct. 3, 2018. Okobi was later pronounced dead at a hospital. (Nico Savidge/Bay Area News Group)

Video of the arrest shows deputies eventually got on top of the 6-foot-2, 330-pound Okobi to handcuff him and later realized he wasn't responding. Emergency medical personnel at the scene couldn't find Okobi’s pulse. He was taken to Mills-Peninsula Hospital and pronounced dead about 80 minutes after the arrest.

Burris and Douglas contend the deputies’ pinning of Okobi to the bottom as they handcuffed him was a dangerous and negligent tactic that, together with the Taser shocks and aerosol, led to his death.

Okobi died as a result of “cardiac arrest following workup, physical restraint, and up to date electro-muscular disruption” associated with the Taser shock, in step with a town County Coroner’s report.

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