Funeral to take place for man who died after being tased by deputies in Millbrae

MILLBRAE, Calif. (KGO) -- On October 3, 36-year-old Chinedu Okobi, died after San Mateo County sheriff's deputies tased him in Millbrae. Now his family is demanding answers.

"I'm in a place of real rage. I am angry that I have to talk about my brother in the past tense," said Ebele Okobi, who is Chinedu's older sister.

Ebele flew into San Francisco from London where she lives with her husband and children. She spoke to ABC7 while making funeral arrangements at Cypress Lawn Funeral Home in Colma. She says that Chinedu was the youngest of five siblings and that they all grew up in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood.

Cell phone video posted to Snapchat on October 3, shows Chinedu wandering around El Camino Real, near Capuchino Drive, in the middle of the day.

A few minutes later, surveillance video from a hotel, shows deputies arriving on scene. A witness says after getting tased and then into a scuffle with deputies, Chinedu, appeared disoriented, and then lost consciousness. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

"It was when he was studying for the GMAT that he had a psychotic break," said Ebele, who explained that her brother's mental health issues began while he was at Morehouse College. He graduated, had a daughter with his college sweetheart and eventually moved back to the Bay Area.

Ebele says once he was home, she took her brother to appointment after appointment and that he was on medication, but this past year he found himself in crisis again. "Anyone who's had a loved one with mental illness, it's such a struggle getting a diagnosis, it's such a struggle getting treatment."

Ebele says Chinedu worked at Home Depot for years, but lost his job in January, she presumes because of his mental health condition.

She says this past year, he had been in and out of touch with his family, including their mom, who Chinedu did speak to about a month ago. But, Ebele says the day before he died, Chinedu used his unemployment check to send child support to Tennesse, where his daughter lives with her mom.

"My feeling is that he's not on his medications and that he's paranoid because he's not on his medications," explained Ebele when asked what she thinks happened in Millbrae. She says her brother has always been "terrified" of law enforcement and believes that played into what happened, "When he saw police officers he got really paranoid and really scared and then he started running away from them. And they took the fact that he was scared as non-compliance."
Ebele also says part of the reason she moved to London is to remove her family, and her young son, from a culture of police violence against members of the black community in America. "I don't have the courage to be the mother of a black son in America. I can't take it."

San Mateo County District Attorney, Steve Wagstaffe, is investigating whether deputies used excessive force.

When ABC7 News reporter Kate Larsen asked him why Chinedu needed to be tased or overcome by five different deputies for walking in the street, Wagstaffe said "Not going into the precise details, what I can tell you Kate is that it wasn't just standing in the street because that was my concern at the beginning. Was this all over a jaywalking? But it wasn't."

Wagstaffe says two different deputies tased Chinedu three or four times, after he ignored their commands and continued to walk in and out of traffic.

Wagstaffe also says he's concerned about the efficacy of the taser. "Were looking for some answers both with the manufacturer as well as with our pathologist as to why did somebody die, when it's purpose is to be non-lethal?"

Wagstaffe says his office is finished interviewing the sheriff's sergeant and four deputies who were involved. They've also completed most of the civilian interviews. The autopsy is also complete, but Wagstaffe says the pathologist needs the toxicology report back before they can give a final conclusion on Chinedu's cause of death. Wagstaffe says his investigation should be complete in December.

The Okobi family has hired a civil rights attorney in the Bay Area and on Tuesday the family is holding a press conference.

Then from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 pm on Tuesday, they will hold a community vigil at the scene, on El Camino Real between Millwood Drive and Santa Helena in Millbrae.
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