Surveillance video from a state psychiatric hospital in Virginia shows a group of sheriff’s deputies and medical staff piling on a handcuffed man, Irvo Otieno, and pinning him for nearly 11 minutes until his death on March 6.
The video, which was obtained by The Washington Post before its expected release on Tuesday, shows at least seven deputies from the Henrico County sheriff’s office enter a room at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County dragging Mr. Otieno, who is shirtless and in handcuffs and leg shackles. The deputies push him into a small couch and then force him to the floor, where they pinion him until his death while medical staff stand aside, the video shows.
The Dinwiddie County prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, has charged seven sheriff’s deputies and three employees of the hospital with second degree murder. She had announced that she was publicly releasing the video on Tuesday, though some defense lawyers had filed motions to block its release. However, The Post accessed the video through a court filing and published it.
Mr. Otieno, who had long been struggling with mental health and had been taken from his home three days earlier, had been moved to the hospital by sheriff’s deputies from a county jail earlier that day. In the video, people who seem to be part of the medical staff walk in and out of the room as the deputies pile on Mr. Otieno, 28, pinning his legs and arms and pushing his body down to the floor.
Mr. Otieno’s family said he was deprived of medication while in jail that he needed for his mental illness. They disputed that he was violent at the hospital.
The seven deputies from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office have been placed on administrative leave, the authorities there said. Sheriff Alisa Gregory said the events of March 6 “represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost.”
In court last Wednesday, Ms. Baskervill said that Mr. Otieno had suffocated from the weight of the deputies smothering him, CBS 6 News reported.
“There is video footage of exactly what happened, and he was not agitated and combative,” Ms. Baskervill said of Mr. Otieno. “He was held down on the ground, pinned on the ground for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged here.”
Mr. Otieno was a well-known athlete growing up in Henrico, according to an attorney for his family, Mark Krudys. He began struggling with his mental health as a young adult. On March 3, he appeared to be experiencing distress and walked to a neighbor’s lawn, where he picked up some solar-powered lights laid out on the property, Mr. Krudys said.
A neighbor called the Henrico Police Department. Officers placed him under an emergency custody order before taking him to a hospital “for further evaluation,” the police said in a statement.
At the hospital, police said, Mr. Otieno was “physically assaultive” toward officers, who arrested him, took him to the Henrico County Jail and charged him with three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and one count each of disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.
On March 6, Mr. Otieno was taken from the jail to the state hospital, where, the prosecutor said, the deputies smothered him.
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