The family of Chinedu Okobi filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging that San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies conducted an illegal stop and used excessive force resulting in Okobi’s death when they stopped him for jaywalking and used a Taser, batons and pepper spray.
“This was a shocking example of racial profiling and the devastation that can occur when a minor stop, an illegal stop, results in someone’s death,” said John Burris, the family’s attorney, at a news conference in Oakland to announce the lawsuit.
Okobi, the son of Nigerian immigrants, died after sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Wang attempted to stop him while he was walking in the 1400 block of El Camino Real on Oct. 3.
Video of the encounter released in March showed that Okobi crossed the street to avoid Wang, who called for backup. When more deputies arrived, the confrontation quickly escalated, and Okobi was Tased by Wang multiple times.
Along with the release of video, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced he would not pursue criminal charges against the four involved deputies.
An internal review, which would determine whether the deputies acted within department policy, is ongoing, and the sheriff’s office has declined to provide a timeline for its conclusion.
Okobi’s sister, Facebook executive Ebele Okobi, said at Friday’s news conference that the decision not to prosecute “shocks the conscience.”
“It should not be that a human being can be killed, can be violently killed, can be tortured to death with impunity,” she said.
The sheriff’s office issued a false statement immediately after Chinedu Okobi’s death, saying that Chinedu Okobi had punched a deputy before he was Tased. County officials, who have repeatedly declined to discuss the case, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit.
-Scott Morris, Bay City News