Ten people have been charged with murder in the death of a 28-year-old Black man who was seen being pinned to the ground in security footage, including three employees of a Virginia mental hospital and seven sheriff’s deputies.
Irvo Otieno, 28, passed away on March 6 while being admitted to a state mental health facility after being transferred from a Henrico County jail, according to a statement from Ann Cabell Baskervill, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Dinwiddie County.
On March 15, Baskervill testified in court that Otieno was restrained for 12 minutes on the ground by all seven deputies while wearing handcuffs and leg irons.
She claimed, “They choked him to death. “He was smothered and asphyxiated to death.”
She claimed that the incident was caught on “extremely clear, extremely alarming” video.
The 12-minute video depicts “deliberate and cruel treatment,” she continued.
Henrico Police detained Irvo Otieno on March 3. Deputies from the Henrico Sheriff’s Office brought him to Central State, a psychiatric facility in Dinwiddie, a few days later, on March 6. They claimed that when he started to fight, the deputies had to restrain him. The medical examiner made a preliminary determination that Otieno’s death was a homicide from asphyxiation after he was later pronounced dead.
The death of a Black man while in custody has raised concerns recently, and Otieno’s case is the most recent instance of this. It comes after the murder of George Floyd while under police custody in Minneapolis and the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee.
Along with the seven deputies charged on Tuesday, three former employees of Central State Hospital have been charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death. They are Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.
Ben Crump and Mark Krudys, Otieno’s attorneys, joined the family on March 16 to discuss the surveillance footage, which Krudys claimed showed all seven deputies “absolutely brutally” pushing down “every part of his body.”
Upon viewing the video, Krudys remarked, “I was not really prepared to see this,” highlighting the fact that Otieno was restrained by leg irons and handcuffs.
“You can tell that they are giving it their all. Absolute brutality is being used to push down every part of his body. Even seeing his image repeatedly is impossible.
According to statements from his family and one of their attorneys, Otieno, a 28-year-old from Henrico County, had a history of mental health issues and was in mental distress at the time of his initial interaction with law enforcement earlier this month.
After the deputies found Otieno to be “lifeless and not breathing,” Krudys claimed that the hospital video showed a lack of urgency to assist him.
At the news conference, Krudys said, “And then you see people standing around with their hands in their pockets and looking away. Additionally, a sizable amount of time passes before any sort of rescue efforts are launched.
The deputies “drift away out of the room and into a conversation by themselves” after performing CPR, according to Krudys.
According to Krudys, Otieno, whose family is from Kenya, was an aspiring musician and well-liked young man. He had also been a well-known high school athlete in the area. Otieno came to the United States when he was 4 years old.
As American as apple pie, Irvo. He is aware of this. Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, declared, “This is home for him. It was my child. He was a kind man. He was concerned about how people were treated. That was the foundation of how he was raised in our house. He was concerned about fair treatment for all.
“I’m unable to attend his wedding. Because someone refused to assist him, I’ll never get to see a grandchild, Ouko said. “No one intervened to stop what was happening,”
According to a press release from the police department, Otieno was encountered by officers who were responding to a report of a possible burglary on March 3 in suburban Richmond. Based on Otieno’s behavior, the officers placed him under an emergency custody order and transported him to a nearby hospital for evaluation. The actions that prompted the order were not described in the news release.
According to Krudys, a neighbor reported Otieno for stealing yard lights to the police. He claimed that Otieno’s mother attempted to defuse the initial police interaction and that the family was in favor of having him taken to a hospital because they thought he required mental health care.
He allegedly “became physically assaultive toward officers, who arrested him,” according to the police, while he was at the hospital. He was taken to a nearby jail run by the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, where he was charged with a number of offenses.
The Central State Hospital south of Richmond was visited by representatives of the sheriff’s office around 4 p.m. on March 6 to admit Otieno, said Baskervill.
Otieno, according to Krudys, was denied access to necessary medications while he was incarcerated. The family does not understand why Otieno was taken from the jail to the state hospital, which is about 45 minutes away, as opposed to a nearby mental health facility, according to him.
Baskervill claimed that Central State Hospital staff members watched as Otieno was suffocated by the Henrico deputies during a hearing for the seven deputies on March 15 despite the fact that by the time he was held down for 12 minutes, he had made no resistance.
At some point, Baskervill claimed, “he’s pulled to the ground or slumps, and what follows is 12 minutes of him being splayed out on the ground with all seven and then, ultimately, some Central State people as well,” Baskervill said. No one offered assistance or stood in the way of the others putting their hands on the victim, who subsequently passed away from suffocation.
On Wednesday, the judge set the bail for two of the deputies. If they have been released is not immediately clear. According to news sources, the other deputies were still being held in custody while securing legal representation.
One of the defendants, Deputy Bradley Disse, was served “honorably” over the course of his 20-year career with the sheriff’s department, according to an email from Disse’s lawyer, Edward Nickel, on Thursday.
According to Nickel in an email, “He is looking forward to his opportunity to try this case and for the full truth to be shared in court and ultimately vindicated.
It was not possible to get in touch with another defense lawyer right away for comment. In a statement shared on social media on Tuesday, the Henrico Fraternal Order of Police-Lodge 4 defended the deputies, urging people not to jump to conclusions and emphasizing that the charges have not yet been put to the full test of the legal system.
According to Baskervill, the Virginia State Police, who are in charge of the investigation, weren’t summoned to the hospital until after Otieno had passed away. According to the news release from her office on Thursday, additional accusations and arrests are still pending.