WARREN, MICHIGAN – Neighbors say police may have used excessive force because victim not threatening
A neighbor of a 27-year-old Warren man who died after he was Tasered by police said a few minutes prior the incident the man appeared “freaked out” but not threatening.
The neighbor, a 43-year-old man who did not want to be named, said Sunday that Richard Kokenos knocked on the front door of his home on Kendall Street shortly after midnight Saturday morning and asked to use the telephone to call his mother because his grandmother needed help.
“He looked like he was freaking out, like something might have happened at home,” the neighbor said. “It was strange. He was acting weird.”
When the neighbor returned to the door with his cell phone, Kokenos already had gone next door and knocked on that door. Kokenos went to a third house before returning to the second house, where the 43-year-old man again approached Kokenos to offer his phone.
But Kokenos left and walked a few houses to Eureka Street, where he tried to enter a home, according to a TV report. When police responded to the scene, Kokenos reportedly was seen slamming his body into the home.
Officers handcuffed and placed Kokenos in a patrol car. Kokenos attempted to break out of the squad car, and one of the officers attempted to stop him by stunning him with a Taser gun, according to the TV report.
Spay paint markings made by police indicating the location of Kokenos’ body could be seen Sunday in the parking lane of northbound Eureka, across the street from St. Mark Church, which abuts the Fitzgerald High School football field.
No one answered the door of the home early evening Sunday where it is believed Kokenos tried to enter.
The 43-year-neighbor and another neighbor, Dave Magiera, said based on what they heard, the police’s actions seem excessive. They said Kokenos was not threatening, as he was heavy and short.
“I think maybe it’s overkill,” the 43-year-old man said. “He was not a threatening guy. It’s just too bad.”
Magiera said he learned that a dozen police officers responded.
“They had enough force there to contain him” without Tasering him, Magiera said. “I’m pissed. I think they used excessive force. He was kind of a chubby kid, not a threat.”
Magiera said Sunday morning he talked to Kokenos’ mother, with whom Kokenos had been living since earlier this year.
“She was a wreck,” he said. “She told me they Tasered him three or four times.”
The use of Taser stun guns by police have come under fire off and on in recent years in Macomb County and nationally due to occasional deaths involving them.
The incident is at least the third death following a police Tasering in Macomb County, and second in Warren, in recent years.
Robert Mitchell, 16, of Detroit, died in April 2009 after he was struck several times by a Taser fired by a Warren police officer in a Detroit house after Mitchell ran from an Eight mile Road traffic stop . Although the marijuana was found in the 16-year-old’s system, two forensic pathologists concluded that the Taser contributed to his death by affecting his heart. The teen’s family sued in federal court. The outcome of that case was unclear Sunday.
In 2007, 47-year-old Steven Spears, a body builder and hairdresser from Shelby Township, died after he was involved in a tussle with police that included the deployment of a Taser gun. Although autopsy reports attributed his death to cocaine, his family filed an excessive force lawsuit against the township and settled for $1.95 million.