Ten Virginia Deputies Indicted In Irvo Otieno’s Death At Psychiatric Hospital – NPR End-shutdown

The STAR Center, at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, photographed in 2018.

Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

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Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

The STAR Center, at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, photographed in 2018.

Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

Ten law enforcement officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a black man at a state psychiatric hospital last week, according to a Virginia prosecutor.

Irvo Noel Otieno, 28, was taken into emergency custody on March 3 after experiencing mental health issues.

He spent three days in a local jail in Henrico County, south of Richmond, Virginia, where his family’s attorney says officers “brutalized” him, including pepper-spraying, stripping and depriving him of his medications. , before being transferred to Central. State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility in Dinwiddie County.

Otieno was restrained in handcuffs and leg irons throughout the hospital admission process, according to Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Solicitor Ann Cabell Baskervill. In court on Wednesday, she said Videos show seven sheriff’s deputies held him to the ground for about 12 minutes.

“They suffocated him to death,” he said. “He died of suffocation from being suffocated.”

The video shows “deliberate and cruel” treatment, said Baskervill, who filed a complaint criminal information charge — a way to initiate criminal proceedings without the need for a grand jury vote — against deputies.

In a statement shared with NPR, Baskervill described it as a rare but necessary step.

“This legal tactic is for the purpose of protecting other residents of the Henrico County Jail,” he said. “It allows for a justifiable and immediate removal of these seven individuals from their current capacities.”

The Baskerville office named the deputies as Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30.

They were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case, Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory. said tuesday. They were arrested, each facing a felony charge of second-degree murder, and turned themselves in to state police later that day.

On Thursday, Baskervill’s office said three other officers had been charged with second-degree murder in the case, bringing the total number of arrests to 10.

They are Darian M Blackwell, 23; Wavie L Jones, 34 and Sadarius D Williams, 27.

Baskervill said Thursday that the case will go before a grand jury next week “for a final determination of charges going forward.”

“Criminal information arrest warrants are based on the evidence collected, analyzed and evaluated to date,” he added. “A key element of that evidence is surveillance video from Central State
Hospital that captures the admission process.”

The sheriff’s office says it is cooperating with a Virginia State Police investigation into the incident, as well as conducting its own independent review.

“The events of March 6, in essence, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost,” Gregory said. “This loss is felt not only by those close to him, but by our entire community.”

Otieno’s family is represented by civil rights attorney Mark Krudys, who is also working with Ben Crump on the case. He plans to give a press conference on Thursday afternoon, after seeing the video of Otieno’s death for the first time with his family.

Krudys tells NPR that they expect the video to be made public at some point, likely early next week, though Baskervill said Thursday that “in order to maintain the integrity of the criminal justice process at this time, I am unable to release the video. “. ”

In the meantime, he says he’d like those learning about the case to focus on the person at the center.

Otieno’s family, which he describes as close, moved to the US from Kenya when he was 4 years old. He was a standout athlete on his high school’s basketball and football teams, he went to college for some time and was pursuing a career in music.

“Ivor loved sports, music and the beach,” his older brother Leon wrote in a GoFundMe raising money for his funeral. “He often said that he wanted to be great one day and help our people in Kenya with their needs.”

Krudys says Otieno’s death is devastating not only to her family, but also to others in her community, from neighbors to high school friends.

“He is living a very fruitful, productive and meaningful life that is transforming those around him and has an overlap of mental health issues that go along with it,” says Krudys, declining to give a specific diagnosis. “This is something episodic that happens from time to time, it happens to a lot of people, and it requires love, not the application of force.”

What we know so far: The original incident

Krudys says his team has a lot of questions about what happened to Otieno before his death on March 6, but is starting to put together a picture based on the information they’ve gathered so far.

Otieno was experiencing mental health issues on March 3, which was apparent to his family, and Krudys says he may have “picked up what appear to be solar-powered garden lights” from a neighbor’s yard.

“It was something we saw as a misunderstanding, but they called the police,” he says.

Otieno’s mother was alarmed to see so many officers, including some with “tasers and hands on their guns,” according to Krudys. He says that she “wrapped around her son when she was outside and implored the officers not to take any action.”

Henry’s Police said in a statement that officers responded to reports of a possible burglary, along with members of the county’s crisis intervention team. Based on his observations and interactions with Otieno, he was placed under an emergency custody order and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

Police say Otieno then “became physically aggressive” with the officers, who arrested him and transported him to an area jail, where he was charged with vandalism, disorderly conduct and three counts of assault on law enforcement officers.

Krudys and Baskervill allege that authorities mistreated Otieno during his time in jail. He was naked in his cell in the cold and was also pepper sprayed, with no evidence of anyone washing the chemicals from his eyes.

“If you’re handcuffed, as he apparently was, and they spray that in your eyes and you’re naked and you’re going through a mental health crisis and none of your loved ones are there, it’s a scary situation,” Krudys says. .

He adds that Otieno’s mother visited repeatedly to try to bring him his medication, and at one point was told it would be “a period of time” before he could see a doctor. Krudys says that Otieno’s family was concerned that his condition would deteriorate without his medication.

What we know so far: Hospital transfer

On March 6, Otieno was transported to the Central State Hospital, which Krudys says is about 45 minutes away, much further than another hospital a minute’s drive from the jail, with what Krudys describes as a heavy police presence.

He says seven Henrico officers accompanied Otieno to the hospital in a Ford Explorer and other vehicles with “sirens and flashers on.”

“I’ve never heard of so many to transport a detainee in chains, but that’s what happened,” he says, noting that Otieno was wearing handcuffs and leg shackles.

Krudys says that once the group entered, the video, which Baskervill saw and apparently described to him, shows Otieno sitting on a chair at one point and then lying face down on the floor, though it’s unclear if he moved of his own accord. willpower. .

The roughly 12-minute video shows the seven deputies, whom Krudys describes as “pretty big people,” on top of Otieno.

“The attorney for the Commonwealth says that all of the defendants participated at some point,” he says. “She said it’s hard to even see Irvo because she’s under the weight of all the sheriff’s deputies.”

The prosecutor’s office said in its statement that the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the hospital at approximately 3:58 p.m. to admit Otieno as a patient. More than three hours later, at 7:28 p.m., the Virginia State Police were called to investigate his death.

“State police investigators were told that he had become combative during the intake process,” the statement continued. “Otieno, who was physically restrained, died during the admission process.”

Krudys challenges the idea that Otieno was combative, as surrounding deputies and hospital employees suppressed and outnumbered him. He says that’s just one of the many questions the family hopes to answer.

“Our focus is not just on the seven [arrested] but about the Central State Hospital employees who were there and their actions, as well as what happened, for example, in jail while he was there?” he says. “Why was he naked in the cell, why was he sprayed with pepper spray, why did all this happen to a person who was in a mental health crisis and shouldn’t have been thrown into the criminal justice system like he was?

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