People are searching for answers about an unarmed Black man who died after an encounter with five Northern California police officers this month.
Chinedu Valentine Okobi, 36, stopped breathing while in the custody of the San Mateo County sheriff deputies on Oct. 3 following reports that he was running in and out of traffic in Millbrae, which is south of San Francisco. He reportedly attacked an officer who responded to the scene, which led to Okobi being tased, according to the Associated Press.
His sister, Ebele Okobi, called her brother “smart, funny, hard-working and incredibly kind” in a heartfelt Facebook post on Oct. 8, also revealing that he suffered from mental health issues.
“Chinedu Valentine Okobi. He was a person. He was my little brother, he was a father, he was loved. Now he is gone, and our hearts are broken,” wrote Ebele, who serves as Facebook’s Head of Public Policy in Africa.
Activist Shaun King took to Instagram on Monday and posted tributes to Okobi, who he knew briefly during his time at Morehouse College. King told EBONY that the family is still waiting to hear official word from police about what happened to Okobi.
“The family hasn’t really gotten any information at all from the local sheriff’s office,” said King. “One of the things that happen when someone is killed by police, their entire humanity is defined by what happened the moment we died.”
King, who served as Morehouse’s student government president when Okobi attended, said the man did poetry, rap and spoken word and was a “gentle soul” who was proud to be from the Bay area, despite originally being from Nigeria. He added that his death sheds light on how Black people are treated by the police.
“[The family knows] like I know that Black men and women are routinely treated one way, in what otherwise should be a routine encounter,” King told EBONY. “The family is devastated.”
Outraged to hear about the killing of Chinedu Okobi. A Nigerian-American brother, father, son, poet and friend to many I’m close to. He was tased to death by police in Milbrae, CA. We demand accountability and #Justice4Chinedu. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/kZV5YotGMj
— Opal Tometi 🇳🇬🇺🇸 (@opalayo) October 13, 2018
The San Mateo sheriff’s office confirmed that an investigation is ongoing and the case was handed to the district attorney’s office.
The five deputies involved in the incident were placed on paid leave pending the results of the investigation.
A memorial service for Okobi will be Oct. 16 in San Francisco.
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.