Video from a state mental hospital shows a handcuffed and shackled Black Virginia man being pinned to the ground by deputies. The deputies are now being charged with second-degree murder in the man’s death, according to the man’s family and their lawyers, who saw the video on Thursday.
After watching the video with a local prosecutor, Irvo Otieno’s family and lawyers spoke out against what they said was brutal treatment at a local jail and then at the state hospital, where they say he died on March 6 during the admission process.
They asked the U.S. Department of Justice to step in because Otieno’s constitutional rights had been clearly violated.
“America, what I saw today was heartbreaking. It bothered me. It was upsetting. My son was beaten badly, “Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, said.
Irvo Otieno is the 3rd Black Man after Tyre Nichols and George Floyd
The death of Otieno is the latest case of a Black man who died while in police custody, which has put law enforcement under the microscope. It comes after Tyre Nichols was killed by police in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this year and almost three years after George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.
Ben Crump, who worked for Floyd’s family and is now helping Otieno’s, made the connection quickly.
“It is truly shocking that almost three years after the brutal killing of George Floyd by police, another family is grieving a loved one who allegedly died in almost the same way, by being pinned down by police for 12 agonizing minutes,” Crump said in a statement.
Mark Krudys, another lawyer for Otieno’s family, said at the news conference that the video showed all seven of the deputies now facing charges pushing down on Otieno, who was in handcuffs and leg irons.
“You can see that they are giving it their all. Every part of his body is being pressed down very hard “he said.
A Total of 10 People Have Been Charged So Far
Ten people have so far been charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death. The seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies were charged on Tuesday, and three people who worked at the hospital were charged on Thursday.
The video the family watched on Thursday has not been made available to the public. But Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill also talked about it in court on Wednesday. At the first hearing for the deputies, she said that Otieno was smothered to death, local news outlets reported.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch said that Baskervill said Otieno did not look like he was going to fight and was sitting in a chair when the officers pulled him to the ground.
She sent out a news release on Thursday about the new charges against Darian M. Blackwell, 23, Wavie L. Jones, 34, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, all of whom worked at the hospital. They were being held without bond, and it wasn’t clear right away if they had lawyers who could talk for them. A state police spokeswoman said she didn’t know if they had lawyers, and court records didn’t list any. The news release didn’t say what part they are said to have played in Otieno’s death.
The tweet below shows Otieno’s mother interview:
We need JUSTICE for the unnecessary death of #IrvoOtieno! His mother Caroline Ouko — who is now a part of a tragic fraternity that NO parent wants to join — should not be having to grieve the loss of her kind and courageous son. Mental illness should not be a death sentence! pic.twitter.com/FdlSO1Shft
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) March 16, 2023
Baskerville said that more charges and arrests are on the way.
Otieno was a child when his family moved from Kenya to the suburbs of Richmond. He had a history of mental health problems and was in mental distress when he first met law enforcement earlier this month, according to his family and their lawyers.
That started a chain of events that led to him being locked up for a few days. On March 6, as he was being taken to Central State Hospital south of Richmond, authorities say he died.
Krudys said that the video from the hospital showed that the deputies didn’t rush to help Otieno after they saw that he was “dead and not breathing.”
Krudys said that Otieno was a young man who was very loved, who wanted to be a musician, and who had been a well-known athlete in high school.
At the news conference, Ouko held a framed photo of her son and said, “There is goodness in his music, and that’s all I have left now that he’s gone.”
“I’m not able to go to his wedding. Someone didn’t help him, so I’ll never have a grandchild. No one tried to stop what was happening, “said she.
Otieno was Treated Like An Animal
Henrico County Police, which is a separate organization from the sheriff’s office, gave a timeline that said Otieno was first taken into custody on March 3.
In a news release, the police department said that officers met Otieno when they went to a suburb of Richmond to check on a possible burglary. Based on his behavior, they put him under an emergency custody order and took him to a local hospital to be checked out.
Krudys said that Otieno was having a mental health crisis, and a neighbor called the police because they were worried about him taking lights from a yard. He said that Otieno’s mother tried to calm down the initial response of a crowd of police officers and that the family agreed that he should be taken to a hospital for treatment.
The tweet below explains Irvo Otieno’s manner of death:
BREAKING: 7 sheriff's deputies have been charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of Irvo Otieno, who was smothered for 12 minutes until he died.
This shit has to stop. pic.twitter.com/wLMKkQ0WTR
— BrooklynDad_Defiant!☮️ (@mmpadellan) March 16, 2023
But while he was in the hospital, police said he “became physically violent toward officers.” They arrested him and took him to a local jail run by the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, where they served him with several charges.
The lawyers for Otieno’s family said that he couldn’t get the medicines he needed while he was in jail. The family also watched a video from that facility on Thursday. They said it showed that unidentified officers beat Otieno again.
Crump said he was pepper-sprayed, and Krudys said the video showed officers charging into Otieno’s cell on March 6 while he was naked and handcuffed. Krudys said the cell was full of feces. In the video, officers carry Otieno, who is “almost dead,” by his arms and legs “like an animal” to a car to take him to the state hospital.
Ouko said, “My son was treated like a dog, or even worse than a dog.”
Shannon Taylor, the commonwealth’s attorney for Henrico County, said in a statement on Thursday that she is looking into what happened in the jail that day and will share her findings. The sheriff of Henrico would not say anything more than what was said in a statement earlier in the week.
Baskerville says that sheriff’s office workers came to Central State Hospital on March 6 around 4 p.m. to admit Otieno. She said that the state police were not called to look into his death until 7:28 p.m. that day.
The Times-Dispatch said that Baskerville disagreed with a defense lawyer’s claim that two medical injections Otieno got might have had something to do with his death.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner hasn’t said how Otieno died for sure yet.
According to court records and local media, two of the deputies were released on bond. The other people were still in jail, and their court dates were set for next week.
Edward Nickel, the lawyer for one of the people who were let go, Deputy Bradley Disse, said in an email Thursday that Disse has done “honorable” work for the sheriff’s department for 20 years.
Nickel said in an email, “He is looking forward to his chance to try this case and for the court to hear the whole truth and find him innocent.”
The Associated Press tried to get in touch with the lawyers listed in court records for the other deputies on Thursday by sending emails, making phone calls, and leaving messages.
In a statement posted to social media on Tuesday, the Henrico Fraternal Order of Police-Lodge 4 stood by the deputies. They asked people not to judge too quickly and pointed out that the charges haven’t been through the legal system yet.
AP and other news outlets have asked for a video of the fight. Officials are not releasing it because an investigation is still going on. Crump said on Thursday that the family thinks the video should be shown to the public.
“How can we build trust if we don’t have openness and responsibility?” he asked.
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