County officials are calling it “the largest law enforcement-related settlement in anyone’s memory” after agreeing to pay a $4.5 million settlement for the tasering and killing of an unarmed pedestrian who’d merely been jaywalking.
When San Mateo sheriff’s deputies tasered and killed 36-year-old Black man Chinedu Okobi in October 2018, it was the county’s third fatal law enforcement tasering in a year. Okobi’s violent arrest for jaywalking, involving five officers and multiple taserings, was determined to be his cause of death. According to his 2018 autopsy, Okobi died from “cardiac arrest following physical exertion, physical restraint, and recent electro-muscular disruption.”
The Bay Area News Group obtained graphic video of the incident in 2019.
Video Shows San Mateo Cops Stalk Chinedu Okobi & Then Tase, Beat & Smother Black Man to Death to En-force Jaywalking Law: White Prosecutor Declines to File Charges https://t.co/gto3LbufcX pic.twitter.com/fBsTRFxjvp— BrownWatch (@BrownWatch) March 3, 2019
More than four years later, the SF Standard has dug up the news that San Mateo County settled with Okabi’s family for $4.5 million, via information they dug up in a public records request. A San Mateo County spokesperson tells the New York Times “It is certainly the largest law enforcement-related settlement in anyone’s memory.”
How does one get the largest law enforcement-related settlement in anyone’s memory? When one hires famed civil right attorney John Burriss, who represented Rodney King, the family of Oscar Grant, and the family of Sean Monterrosa.
“It really wasn’t about money,” Burriss told the Times. “It never would have happened if they had not been racially profiling him.”
According to the Times, the settlement was reached in August 2022. It had not been previously reported until this week.
Burriss’s allegation of racial profiling has not been proven. But it was proven that Okabi was unarmed at the time of the incident. Activists had called for criminal charges against the five deputies, but the San Mateo District Attorney declined to file charges in 2019.
Image: San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via Facebook