On October 3, Chinedu Okobi, a 36 year-old Nigerian immigrant who grew up in in the Bay Area, was killed by san mateo county sheriffs. According to police statements, he had been weaving through traffic. He was married, with a 12 year-old daughter.
Initially, san mateo county district attorney wagstaff had said Chinedu had assaulted a deputy, but he was later forced to admit that was not true. The d.a. then claimed that the deputies had approached him because they were concerned for his safety. wagstaff said deputies tased Chinedu three or four times. There is video of the incident, but it has not been released.
Chinedu’s sister, Ebele Okobi, is the director of Africa policy for Facebook, and with a group of friends has organized to get justice for Chinedu, and to demand accountability and restrictions on the sheriff’s department use of force. She stated that she had moved her family to London in 2014 after the birth of her son, fearing for his safety from police, as a young Black man. Although the video has not been publicly released, on November 18 she posted what she had been allowed to see of the video:
“Two days ago, I watched the police videos of my brother’s October 3 murder. They were shocking, not just because I sat next to my mother as we watched my little brother getting tortured to death in broad daylight while he begged “Someone, please help me!” and cried out “What did I do?”. They were shocking because they contradicted, in every single particular, the statement that the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office released and to which San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe referred in multiple news outlets after my brother’s murder…
“The video of my brother’s murder starts out with a dash cam view of my brother, walking calmly down the sidewalk, carrying bags. It’s notable, because the view shows other people walking-it’s broad daylight, so there is nothing particularly interesting or sinister about a man walking down the street, holding bags, heading somewhere. He is dressed normally, and doesn’t look disheveled or as if he’s in crisis…”
“They grab him, rip off his jacket. He tries to run, asking, “What’s wrong? What did I do?” That’s when Deputy Joshua Wang tased him. My brother falls in the street, on his back, crying. He has the presence of mind to keep his hands in the air, even as Deputy Wang holds the taser and continuously sends volts of electricity through his prone body. He is not fighting, just crying in pain. I will never forget the visual of his hands, waving above his head, open, begging. He begs them to take the taser prongs off of him. He tries to pull them off himself…”
She then refutes, point by point, the lies told by wagstaff and the sheriff, including that Chinedu had been wandering in traffic (he hadn’t), was acting erratically due to “mental illness” (he wasn’t), was a danger to, or had assaulted a deputy (he wasn’t and didn’t), and that he died on the way to the hospital (he died in the street). He was tased, pepper sprayed and assaulted by deputies. He was thrown to the ground, and he died.
On Tuesday, December 4, about 40 people spoke at the san mateo county board of supervisors to demand:
1. Immediately release all video
footage surrounding Chinedu’s death;
2. Take the five officers involved in Chinedu’s death off active duty until the investigation is over.
3. Charge the deputies involved in Chinedu’s death. This is the third taser killing in 10 months, and no officers have been charged so far.
4. Place a moratorium on taser use until there is an independent review of the county’s taser policy and practice.
After public comments the chairman of the board of supervisors, david pine, stated that the county had hired an “independent taser expert” to review the case, and that therefore the release of the report, and the video, would be delayed, possibly by several months. (wagstaff had previously said the video would be released in December).
Many organizations in san mateo county have joined this campaign, including Faith in Action Bay Area, Democratic Socialists of America – Peninsula, and, Pacifica Social Justice. Everyone is asked to:
- Call DA wagstaff at (650) 363-4752.
- Attend as many san mateo board of supervisors meetings as you can (they meet on Tuesdays in Redwood City) and keep raising these demands.
For more information, follow Ebele Okobi on facebook, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.