Charges filed in 2014 death of man at Southfield mall

By: Mike Koury | Southfield Sun | Published November 12, 2021

 Four men and former security guards at the Northland Center in Southfield were charged in connection with the death of a Ferndale man seven years ago.

Four men and former security guards at the Northland Center in Southfield were charged in connection with the death of a Ferndale man seven years ago.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Four former security guards at the Northland Center in Southfield have been charged in connection with the death of a Ferndale man in 2014.

In a press conference on the department’s Facebook page Oct. 14, Attorney General Dana Nessel discussed the death of McKenzie Cochran on Jan. 28, 2014, at the Northland mall after an alleged altercation with five security guards.

The former security guards charged in the death are Lucius Hamilton, John Seiberling, Gaven King and Aaron Maree. A fifth security guard involved died in the years since the incident in 2017.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Cochran, then a 25-year-old Ferndale resident, arrived at the mall on Jan. 27. Security footage shows he visited LA Diamonds. The next day, Cochran returned to the store. Security was called to the area after Cochran reportedly stated he wanted to kill someone.

Two guards responded to the scene: the deceased guard and Seiberling. The department stated in a press release one security guard “maced Cochran after he approached the security guard with clenched fists. That action led to the two security guards attempting to restrain Cochran on the ground.” Hamilton, King and Maree would later arrive to help the other guards restrain Cochran.

“Throughout efforts to restrain and handcuff Cochran, he was facedown on the floor with his arms beneath his body,” Nessel said during the press conference. “Cochran was eventually handcuffed, and movements ceased, at which time the guards sat Cochran upright on the floor. Members of the Southfield Fire Department responded to LA Diamond Store at 5:57 p.m. When they arrived, Cochran was sitting on the floor, handcuffed and unresponsive.”

Nessel said witnesses at the scene reported hearing Cochran repeatedly tell security guards he “could not breathe.”

Members of the Fire Department tried to revive Cochran, to no avail, Nessel said. He was taken to Providence Hospital, where he would later be declared dead.

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office declined to bring charges against the security guards in September 2014. In June 2020, the family of Cochran asked the office to undertake another review. Then-Prosecutor Jessica Cooper recused the office from another investigation and referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office, who received the case file in September 2020.

Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren stated at the presser that he spoke with the brother of Cochran when the second review came up. He said he reviewed the case and formed the opinion that the case is worthy of the new review.

“When I look at the case, I feel as though the case should’ve moved forward through the judicial system to let all the facts come out and then form a decision of guilt or innocence,” he said.

The press release stated the AG department’s Public Integrity Unit conducted “additional work, interviewed additional witnesses and obtained additional evidence leading to the charges.”

“I believe that we do have additional evidence that the Oakland County prosecutor did not have in 2014. … There is new information that was not presented to the Oakland County prosecutor at the time,” Nessel said.

Nessel discussed the investigation along with charges that were announced in an Ann Arbor cold case. She said law enforcement doesn’t always get things right and that justice is undermined when those who are guilty of abhorrent crimes are allowed to go free.

“Every time my office takes on a potential case, it deserves a thorough review to properly evaluate if charges are warranted,” Nessel stated. “My team remains committed to securing justice for families, and I appreciate their understanding and allowing us to spend the time necessary to comb through both of these devastating cases in order to ensure that we can present the strongest evidence possible in court.”

Hamilton, Seiberling, King and Maree were charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter, a 15-year felony, in the 46th District Court.

The attorneys for the defendants could not be reached for comment at press time.

The attorney for the family of Cochran, Milton Greenman, could not be reached for comment at press time.

The court stated the next court date for the four is 2 p.m. Nov. 30.

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