Death of Irvo Otieno in police custody: charges, stifling of allegations
Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers are charged with second-degree murder in the March 6 death of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old black man. Prosecutors say he died in handcuffs and irons while being held at a state mental hospital in Petersburg, Virginia.
The video of Otieno’s death exists but has not yet been made public. The images are gruesome and violent, according to family and lawyers who have seen them. USA TODAY has not viewed the video.
“What I saw today was heartbreaking, America. It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured,” Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said of the video Thursday.
Security camera footage shows the hospital’s seven sheriff’s deputies “choked” Otieno and waited more than three hours to report his death, prosecutors said during the officers’ initial hearing.
“It is truly shocking that almost three years after the brutal police killing of George Floyd, another family is mourning a loved one who would have died in almost exactly the same way – being pinned down by police for 12 agonizing minutes” , said Ben Crump. , a nationally known civil rights attorney who has featured prominently in several high-profile cases including the death of George Floyd and now works with Otieno’s family, said in a statement.
Charges laid against 10 people, including 7 MPs
So far, ten people have been charged with second degree murder in Otieno’s death. The seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies were charged Tuesday, and additional charges were announced Thursday against three people employed by the hospital.
Otieno died just days after officers arrested and arrested him on suspicion of burglary, and on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct at a hospital and vandalism. A grand jury in Dinwiddie, Va., is set to meet March 21 to determine whether the deputies and hospital workers should be charged.
More:7 Virginia deputies charged with death of mental hospital patient ‘suffocated’ him in custody, prosecutor says
What do we know about Otieno’s death?
On March 6, officials transported Irvo Otieno to Central State Hospital where he died while being restrained by officers and hospital workers, said Dinwiddie County Attorney Ann Cabell Baskerville. The death occurred during the admissions process, authorities said.
- What was the cause of death? Authorities said the preliminary cause of Otieno’s death was asphyxiation and a state medical examiner has tentatively ruled the manner of death a homicide. A definitive cause had yet to be determined as of March 17.
- What does the video show, according to Otieno’s family? Mark Krudys, a lawyer for Otieno’s family, said the video showed the seven deputies now accused of pushing Otieno, who was handcuffed and leg-shackled. “You can see they’re putting their backs on it. Every part of his body is pushed down with absolute brutality,” he said.
More:‘They tortured him’: 3 workers face murder charges in man’s ‘suffocating’ death at Virginia mental hospital
What happened before Otieno’s death?
County of Henrico Police said when responding to a suspected burglary on March 3, they “identified and approached a potential suspect,” Otieno, and placed him under an emergency custody order. Police, accompanied by members of the county’s Crisis Response Team, took Otieno to an area hospital for further evaluation, where they say he “became physically aggressive towards officers.”
Officers arrested and transported Otieno to the Henrico County West Jail Warrant Services Unit, charged him with assault of a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and of vandalism and booked it, according to a police department news release.
Otieno spent several days in police custody. He was later admitted to Central State Hospital South, where he died.
Irvo Otieno’s family left with ‘goodness in his music’
Irvo Otieno, the 28-year-old Henrico, Va. resident, was an aspiring hip-hop musician and former high school athlete who moved from Kenya to the United States at the age of 4, reported CNN.
“There’s goodness in his music and that’s all I have left now – he’s gone,” his mother told a press conference as she held up a framed photo of her son.
He had a history of mental health issues, his family and lawyers said, and allege he had a mental health crisis.
What is the next step for the MPs concerned?
Henrico Sheriff Alisa Gregory said the seven sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case.
The Associated Press identified the deputies as follows: Randy Joseph Boyer, 57, of Henrico; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37, of Sandston; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45, of Henrico; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43, of Henrico; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50, of Henrico; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48, of Henrico; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30, of North Chesterfield.
The Henrico fraternity order of the police lodge disputed the integrity of the charges. “Mr. Otierno’s death was tragic, and we express our condolences to his family. We also support the seven accused MPs now charged with murder by Dinwiddie Commonwealth County Attorney Ann Baskervill,” they wrote.
The Lodge wrote in a statement on Facebook that it hoped for “a speedy resolution that clears” the names of the officers.
Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement that her office is fully cooperating with state police and conducting its own internal review of the incident.
The mental hospital employees charged are: Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.
George Floyd and Tire Nichols also died in police custody
The case of Otieno is another example of the death in custody of a black man. It follows the fatal beating of Tire Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this year and comes nearly three years after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis police custody.
Otieno’s family and their attorneys called on the US Department of Justice to intervene in the case.
More:7 sheriff’s deputies charged in death of man at Virginia Psychiatric Hospital
Contributor: Associated Press; Thao Nguyen and Terry Collins, USA TODAY; Bill Atkinson, USA TODAY NETWORK
Contact Kayla Jimenez at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kaylajjimenez.