County prosecutors have said Okobi was unarmed at the time of the incident.
The Sheriff’s Office described Okobi as “running in and out of traffic” on El Camino Real, a busy thoroughfare in Millbrae, and reported he that he assaulted a deputy.
His family and their attorney have disputed that account after viewing footage of the incident compiled by the District Attorney’s Office. The DA has not yet released the videos to the public.
In a Facebook post, Okobi's sister, Ebele Okobi, wrote that the footage showed her brother walking down the sidewalk when deputies first approached him.
Okobi’s sister did not go into the details of her brother’s death when she spoke at Monday’s hearing, but following roughly three hours of PowerPoint presentations from law enforcement officials, doctors and legal experts, she reminded supervisors why the discussion matters.
“We’ve talked about suspects, subjects, deaths,” Ebele Okobi said. “And I think what is useful for me to do, is to remind this board, that behind all those statistics, behind those words, ‘subjects’ there are people, there are families, there are fathers, there are sons.”
During the public comment period that followed, one of Okobi's former high school classmates, Jennifer Sisson, wept as she recalled his gentle smile.
“What was his crime, besides being black and walking down the street in Millbrae?” she asked.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe has said his office is still investigating Okobi's death to determine whether deputies used excessive force. Wagstaffe now says he expects to release his findings and all the supporting evidence by the end of February.
The DA has determined that police officers involved in the other two deaths were justified in using force.
More than a dozen residents at the hearing urged supervisors to tighten policies on the use of Tasers, or issue a moratorium on the weapon.
Representatives from Taser manufacturer Axon argued that the devices were the safest intermediate force option, causing less serious injuries than pepper spray, dogs or batons, and had never conclusively led to a fatal electrocution, an assertion that drew jeers and laughter from the audience.
When asked by Supervisor Dave Pine about the extensive warnings that are distributed with Tasers, including that for certain vulnerable people Tasers "may cause or contribute to sudden death," Axon attorney Michael Brave minimized the importance of the warnings.
"It's just like ladders and acetaminophen, if you read all of the warnings you'll never use any of those things," Brave told the supervisors.
Several people expressed dismay that all three of the men who died after altercations involving Tasers suffered from mental illness, despite warnings from the company that the weapons pose a greater risk of sudden death to people in psychiatric distress.
Warren Ragudo, who died on the night of Jan. 16, 2018, was sweating profusely and growling when he tried to jump out of a second-story window, according to the district attorney's investigation.
His sister called 911 for help and told dispatch that her brother was “on drugs” and “freaking out,” the report says.
When Daly City police arrived, the 34-year-old's family was holding him down. The DA's report says that when officers took over, Ragudo continued to struggle and one officer shocked him with a Taser.
The family’s attorney, Fulvio Cajina, said in a recent interview that the officer should have known better than to use the weapon on a person in a psychotic state.
“Warren went into shock, or went into cardiac arrest,” Cajina said. “This all happened in the family's living room with his father and sister and uncle watching as he died.”
The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court.
Ramzi Saad, a 55-year-old man with schizophrenia, died Aug. 13 after being tased by a Redwood City police officer. The DA's report says he had shoved his mother over and slugged the responding officer when he tried talk to him.
A former police captain involved with early adoption of Tasers decades ago said in a recent interview that the manufacturer's warnings don't always align with how officers actually use the weapons.
“Guess what, you cannot communicate with everybody when they're in a psychotic state,” retired Los Angeles police Capt. Greg Meyer said.
When used correctly, he said, a Taser is one of the least dangerous ways to incapacitate someone in psychiatric distress even though the company warns against doing that.
“I'm sorry but that's exactly what the device was invented for in the first place was to use on these hyper-agitated people,” Meyer said.