Ten Indicted After Video Showing Deputies and Medical Staffers Piling on Top of Irvo Otieno Released

Caroline Ouko, mother of Irvo Otieno, holds a portrait of her son with attorney Ben Crump, left, her older son, Leon Ochieng and attorney Mark Krudys at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. She said Otieno, who died in a state mental hospital March 6, was “brilliant and creative and bright.” (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

By Carolyn Fiddler

March 21, 2023

A grand jury today indicted 10 people for second-degree murder after surveillance video from Virginia Central State Hospital was released showing seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three medical staff piling on top of fully-shackled Irvo Otieno for approximately 11 minutes, apparently resulting in his death.

On Tuesday, seven Henrico County deputies and three medical staffers were formally indicted by a grand jury for second-degree murder. The indictments come on the heels of the release of Virginia Central State Hospital surveillance video from March 6 showing as many as 10 people piling on top of a man in handcuffs and leg irons for about 11 minutes until his movements ceased. Moments later, medical staff attempted to use chest compressions and a defibrillator to revive the man, Irvo Otieno, before pronouncing him dead.

The surveillance footage shows Otieno being walked into the hospital by deputies at 4:16 p.m. By 4:31 p.m., nine or 10 deputies and medical staff are seen piling on top of the 28-year-old Black man, who was still fully shackled. The footage has no sound, but at one point, a deputy appears to be laughing, and resuscitation efforts were “very slow” at first, according to a civil rights attorney retained by Otieno’s family.

Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskerville said that Otieno died of asphyxiation and has charged the seven Henrico County deputies with second-degree murder. The three medical workers have also been arrested and charged. An attorney for one of the accused deputies claimed that they were “trying to subdue him, and he was a big aggressive guy,” despite the fact that Otieno was in full arm and leg restraints.

U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan, who represents Dinwiddie and part of Henrico County, decried Otieno’s death in a statement on Tuesday. 

“We have seen too many Americans suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of law enforcement, and too many individuals in crisis harmed by the very people who should provide help,” she said. “A mental health crisis should not be a death sentence.” 

McClellan says that she and her staff are following this case and the subsequent investigations closely as they “wait for the justice process to unfold.”

The Henrico police department, which is separate from the sheriff’s office, said that Otieno was identified as a “potential suspect” in a possible burglary on March 3. Otieno’s mother sought to get her son medical help, and he was first taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, but was later arrested and taken to the county jail after he allegedly “became physically assaultive” towards officers. Three days later, Otieno was transported to Central State Hospital, where Baskervill asserts he died of asphyxia after the 10 deputies and staffers piled on him.

Otieno’s family’s attorneys further claim that jail surveillance video shows Otieno was abused while he was held in jail, where they say he was held naked, battered, and pepper-sprayed by Henrico sheriff’s office employees. The jail video has not been made available publicly. Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said her office would conduct a “comprehensive investigation” of events at the jail.

The Dinwiddie commonwealth’s attorney says she expects more charges and arrests related to Otieno’s death.

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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