Questions were going unanswered in the case of a Nigerian-American man who was killed by sheriff’s deputies in San Mateo County, California, earlier this month. The family of Chinedu Valentine Okobi criticized the cops for using excessive force in the Oct. 3 arrest of the man who they said suffered from mental illness.
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A memorial service for the 36-year-old father was planned for Tuesday at the San Francisco Christian Center, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Okobi was walking in and out of traffic before two deputies tasered him multiple times to subdue and place him in handcuffs, authorities said. The violent arrest sent him into what tuned out to be a fatal cardiac arrest. All five officers involved in the incident were placed on paid leave.
“All I know is a young man’s dead and he was in custody of the police. He was unarmed, not engaged in any serious crime,” stated John Burris, a civil rights attorney who’s representing Okobi’s family.
Burris demanded transparency, calling on the district attorney to release more information, including police video.
Okobi, who earned a business administration degree from Morehouse, was a dedicated father to his 12-year-old daughter, the New York Times reported. He was also a spoken word poet who had strong views on issues and always well-dressed.
About 10 years ago, he began to struggle with mental health issues. Okobi’s family suspected that he may have stopped taking his medication earlier this year.
“This was a heavy-handed approach against someone who very likely was laboring under mental health conditions. They may have not known that up front, but observations should’ve alerted them that something was going on,” said Burris, who was also involved in the high-profile cases of Oscar Grant and Rodney King.
Okobi is the latest victim in a series of several police killings of mentally ill Black men. The growing list includes Shaheed Vassell, Jontell Reedom and Marcus-David L. Peters.
Wagstaffe expected the investigation to take between eight to 10 weeks. An autopsy report has not yet been completed.
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