SAN FRANCISCO – Two weeks ago, Chinedu was Valentine Okobi, who had flown in and out Traffic on a busy street in Downtown Millbrae, California, went into cardiac arrest after being treated and repeatedly probed by sheriffs deputies of San Mateo County.
The drama of death in police detention of this 36-year-old father and Morehouse college graduate, who may have suffered a mental fracture, resembles other high-profile cases of unarmed black men who have seized the nation in recent years.
Ebele Okobi, Chinedu's sister, calls for an investigation of police tactics used to subdue her brother in the deadly encounter. Were the sheriff's deputies trained in crisis intervention for the mentally ill? Why did MEPs prefer Okobi to tasers rather than summon medical help?
Okobi is a prominent Facebook manager and her heartbreak over the death of her brother is for employees of the technology giant near the home home was a shower of support from top executives including Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Okobi, 44, says she wants the death of her younger brother, who is only miles from her Silicon Valley headquarters, in this place where privilege and race keep many people a long way from everyday life and experiences of black people.
"There is a part of me that is angry that this is the reality for all black people I know and that people can completely ignore this reality." She told USA TODAY.
What happened to Okobi's brother is still unclear, with at least five MPs involved, the sheriff's department sa When Chinedu Valentine Okobi was first addressed, he immediately attacked a deputy. At least two MPs fired their stun guns for a total of four discharges, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, whose office examines Okobi's death. The Okobi family lawyer, John Burris, who pleaded with police officers against the families of Mario Woods, Oscar Grant, and Rodney King in civil suits, reports on a passer-by who saw Okobi sitting on the floor with his chin on his chest
Despite public inquiry and nationwide protests against the death of unarmed black men in police custody, Ebele Okobi says she knows the statistics: very few officers are criminally accused and, even if a case is prosecuted, officers are rarely convicted. That made her even more determined to draw attention to law enforcement practices, not just for her brother, but also so that this pain would not be sought out by other families, she says.
At the same time, she wants to raise awareness People who have never had the death of blacks by the police personally touch her, like many of her own Facebook colleagues who have confided in the days since her brother Okobi's death: "Me I did not think this could happen to someone I know. "
" I think this has helped people who are not African Americans and are not in the African American community to realize that this is something that every black person has Person faces, "explains Okobi, Facebook's director of public policy Africa, USA TODAY. "I think in any case within Facebook, for many of my friends and colleagues there was this realization and this realization that this is a significant national problem."
In the city where Okobi's brother was killed, less than one percent of the population is African American. Four percent of the employees are African Americans on Facebook who, like other major technology companies in Silicon Valley, are mostly white and male, and the sensitivity to the Black Lives Matter movement was not always obvious. In 2016, Facebook employees deleted "Black Lives Matter" and wrote "All Lives Matter" on the walls of the company's campus, Menlo Park, California. Facebook examined the racially charged incident and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the blemish of the motto of the movement "deeply hurtful."
It was these racial attitudes in the US that prompted Okobi to uproot her family and move to London four years ago to give birth to her son.
At the hospital, a nurse said, "Oh, he has such big hands, he's a big boy, he's going to be a footballer."
"At that moment, I remember thinking first that he can do it He's not a pianist He can not play the violin He can not be a surgeon It felt like a story was being told right now that my son is tall and intimidating and he's only six pounds nine ounces and he was only three days old. "
Okobi says she left the US," so I never would have to call this phone because of my son The phone call about my brother was shocking and inevitable. "I've run away from that."
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African Americans are much more likely than whites and other groups exposed to police violence, according to a study The "Center for Policing Equity" from 2016. And this use of force can be deadly. Michael Brown in Ferguson. Tamir rice in Cleveland. Walter Scott in South Carolina. Alton Sterling at Baton Rouge. Philando Castile in Minnesota. Stephon Clark in Sacramento
And there are other examples of black men who suffered from a mental illness that died in police custody. Terrence Coleman, a Boston man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was killed in 2016 after his mother called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. The family of a mentally ill Milwaukee man, who was repeatedly charged before his death, filed a federal civil rights suit in May.
Stun guns used by officers as an alternative to deadly force can cause or contribute to the deaths of humans. Research shows. More than 1,000 people in the United States died after being drugged with Tasers, most of them since 2000, according to a study published by Reuters in 2017. Earlier this year, body camera footage of Milwaukee police officers with a stunner on NBA player Sterling Brown led to discipline for the officers and an apology from the mayor of Milwaukee. And Burris says Okobi is the third person to die in San Mateo County this year.
Chinedu Valentine Okobi, who died after battling with police in the San Francisco Bay Area on October 3rd. (Photo: Photo of Chinedu Valentine Okobi's Family)
Okobi, who was not charged with any offense and had no arrest warrants, was the youngest of five siblings raised in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood. He graduated from Morehouse with a degree in business administration and with dreams of "taking over the world," says his sister.
He then began to struggle with mental health problems and began listening to voices while studying for the GMAT. One psychiatrist diagnosed him as bipolar and another as schizophrenic.
His ambitions derailed, he still held a steady job, regularly visited the church, wrote poetry, had a child. He managed his condition until December or January, when his sister feared that he had discontinued his medication.
Ebele Okobi says she knew something was wrong when she came home for Christmas and her brother, who loved her three children, did not attend the family celebration. He lost his job at Home Depot in January. "He was definitely not himself," she says.
Okobi was in and out of contact with his family. A week before his death, he wrote to his mother: "Hello Sunshine." The day before, he sent his 12-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother in Nashville, a child support payment.
A mobile video posted on Snapchat on October 3 shows Okobi walking on the busy thoroughfare El Camino Real in the middle of the day, says Burris. A few minutes later, a surveillance video from a hotel shows the deputies arriving at the scene. After a scuffle, Okobi was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On Tuesday, a service for Okobi took place at the San Francisco Christian Center. Ime Archibong, Facebook Vice President of Partnerships, Maxine Williams, Global Diversity Chief, and Joel Kaplan, Vice President of Policy, visited the memorial. Ebele Okobi's friends and colleagues have contributed more than $ 40,000 to a Facebook fundraiser in favor of Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative.
Okobi says her brother is to be remembered as more than a hashtag.
"His name is now one of too many names," she wrote. "He was a person, he was my little brother, he was a father, he was loved, now he's gone, our hearts are broken, black lives matter."
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