MILLBRAE (BCN) — San Mateo County is paying $4.5 million in a settlement with the family of a 36-year-old man who died when San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies used a Taser stun gun, batons and pepper spray on him in Millbrae in 2018, according to the attorneys for the man’s mother. Chinedu Valentine Okobi died as a result of the encounter with sheriff’s deputies who had stopped him on suspicion of jaywalking along El Camino Real in Millbrae on Oct. 3, 2018. An autopsy found that Okobi died from cardiac arrest after Deputy Joshua Wang deployed his Taser seven times on him.
Wang and four other deputies were cleared by the county District Attorney’s Office of any criminal charges in Okobi’s death. The settlement with Okobi’s family was reached last August but was made public this week.
“The destiny of an unarmed Black man having a mental health crisis shouldn’t be death at the hands of police,” Adante Pointer, the civil rights attorney representing Okobi’s mother in a federal lawsuit against the county, said in a news release about the settlement.
“This happens far too easily and far too often and police officers should be regularly trained on de-escalation strategies for non-violent incidents, and not handed potentially lethal weapons with little training and no outside oversight,” Pointer said.
San Mateo County officials did not respond for a request to comment on the settlement. The case spurred calls for a moratorium on the use of Tasers by law enforcement in San Mateo County. The Sheriff’s Office later revised its use of force policy, advising against using a Taser more than three times on a single suspect besides for “exceptional circumstances” due to the higher risk of cardiac arrest.
Okobi’s family is still seeking reforms in the use of Tasers by law enforcement, according to Pointer’s office. Okobi’s death was also cited as a jaywalking stop gone wrong by state Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, whose Assembly Bill 2147 to reform California’s jaywalking laws was approved and signed into law last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The legislation specifies that an officer can stop and cite someone for jaywalking only when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.
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