Video shows the final moments of a 28-year-old man who died after deputies and staff at a Virginia hospital pinned him down for 11 minutes during a mental health crisis.
Irvo Otieno is seen being escorted in ankle restraints and handcuffs by a group of deputies into a room at Central State Hospital in Virginia on March 6.
The video shows hospital staff joining the deputies in trying to hold him down. At one point, the deputies and staff can be seen surrounding Otieno lying motionless on the floor. Nine deputies and several hospital workers can be seen pinning him to the floor. Hospital workers tried CPR, but he died.
The death shocked his family — and raised yet again the question of how police handle mental health crises. It also prompted prosecutors to file second-degree murder charges against seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Office personnel and three hospital workers.
After seeing the video last week, Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, reacted with outrage in a news conference with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
“What I saw today was heartbreaking,” she said. “It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured.”
Crump said the video is a commentary on the inhumane treatment by law enforcement of those who are having mental health crises. He said Otieno was not confrontational with the deputies or hospital staff.
“You see in the video, he is restrained with handcuffs,” Crump said. “He has leg irons on, and you see in the majority of the video that he seems to be in between lifelessness and unconsciousness. You see him being restrained so brutally … the weight of seven individuals on his body while he’s face down handcuffed with leg irons, and you say, ‘My God, why, it is so unnecessary. It’s so unjustifiable.'”
He said deputies took him away after his mother said he had a mental health crisis.
“They took him away from her, and she couldn’t protect him anymore,” Crump said. “They were tone-deaf as she pleaded with them. She never saw her son alive again.”
Officials said it all started after the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office arrived at Central State Hospital to admit Otieno as a patient. By 7:28 p.m. ET, the Virginia State Police were called to investigate Otieno’s death. Authorities said a preliminary autopsy report listed asphyxiation as a cause of death.
The deputies were identified as Randy Joseph Boye, 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 put on leave.
Three hospital staff members were also charged and will be put on administrative leave. They were identified as Darian M. Blackwell, 23, Wavie L. Jones, 34, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27.
Hospital officials said they are cooperating with Virginia State Police in the investigation and were “working to ensure that Otieno’s family receives information about the events at the hospital.”
Many defendants’ attorneys have said they will vigorously fight the charges, The Associated Press reported.
“Clearly, there was a significant need to restrain this man given the mental health issues that were going on,” Caleb Kershner, an attorney for Deputy Randy Boyer, said, according to the AP.
Jeff Everhart, an attorney for Deputy Brandon Rodgers, said his client had tried to help by moving him to his side, The AP said.
Rhonda Quagliana, an attorney for hospital employee Williams, told The AP her client was innocent of the charges.
Douglas Ramseur, who represents Jones, another hospital employee, asked the judge Tuesday to implement a gag order, arguing the video’s release and media attention damaged Jones’ ability to get a fair trial. The gag order was denied, The AP reported.
“So much has been made of this video,” Disse’s attorney Peter Baruch said in a statement to media outlets. “They show the plaintiffs’ attorneys the video. But we’re representing these people charged with murder that are locked up. It’s really disappointing. It seems like it’s more important to curry public favor, to try the case in the media, instead of letting the criminal justice process work the way it’s supposed to work.”
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