Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies have been charged with murder in the death of a 28-year-old man who prosecutors said was “smothered” while in custody at a state mental hospital.
Irvo Otieno died March 6 after the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office deputies transferred him from a local jail to Central State Hospital, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said.
The prosecutor’s office said Otieno died during the intake process after he was “physically restrained” when he became “combative.”
The seven deputies charged with second-degree murder were identified 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, Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30.
The suspects, who turned themselves in to state police on Tuesday, were placed on administrative leave during the ongoing investigation, Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement.
“The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost. This loss is felt by not only those close to him but our entire community,” she said in a statement.
“As Henrico County sheriff and on behalf of our entire office, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Irvo Otieno,” Gregory added.
During a court hearing Wednesday, Baskervill said video shows the deputies throwing a shirtless and handcuffed Otieno to the ground – with one suspect placing a knee on his body, NBC 12 reported.
She said his preliminary cause of death was asphyxiation.
“He died from asphyxia due to being smothered to death, thanks to seven people, including the defendant, on top of him, holding him down,” Baskervill said in court, according to the news outlet.
She added that video also captured deputies pepper-spraying and punching Otieno in jail before he was transported.
Baskervill said the deputies didn’t call state police until three hours after his death.
An attorney for Otieno’s family said he was treated inhumanely.
“The family is grief-stricken after learning of the brutal nature of Ivor’s death and his inhumane treatment in the hours preceding his death,” Mark Krudys told NBC 12 in a statement.
“The public, and experienced mental health professionals alike, will be appalled when the facts of this case are fully disclosed,” he added.
Otieno, whose family is from Kenya, was a deeply-loved aspiring musician who had been a well-known high school athlete, Krudys said.
He had been on medication to treat mental illness, but he was unable to take it while in custody, Krudys said, according to CNN.
Henrico County police have previously said that officers responding to a report of a possible burglary March 3 identified Otieno as a possible suspect.
He was accused of assaulting the cops, who placed him under an “emergency custody order” and took him to Parham Doctors’ Hospital, police told NBC News.
Police then took him to the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office-run jail, where he was served with multiple charges and then transported to Central State Hospital, south of Richmond, according to the outlet.
The Henrico Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4 called the death tragic and said it was waiting for additional information.
“We support our Brothers and Sisters, and hope for a quick resolution that clears their names,” the local police union said in a statement.
“Policing in America today is difficult, made even more so by the possibility of being criminally charged while performing their duty,” the group said.
On Tuesday, Virginia State Police rep Corinne Geller confirmed that the agency’s probe is ongoing, adding that it has obtained hospital security footage.
There are no immediate plans to release it, Geller said.
Meanwhile, a judge granted Branch a $15,000 bond and Disse a $10,000 bond.
The five other deputies were being held until they arrange legal representation, NBC 12 reported.
The defendants are due back in court on Tuesday.
With Post Wires
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