Video connected to Irvo Otieno’s in-custody death to be released
Written by ABC Audio ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on March 20, 2023
(DINWIDDIE, Va.) — Video of the March 6 chain of events that ended with the in-custody death of Irvo Otieno will be released on Tuesday, according to Virginia prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill.
Cabell Baskervill, Dinwiddie County’s Commonwealth Attorney, said the incident began in the Henrico County Jail, where Otieno was allegedly punched by officers in his side and torso. She alleged at one point Otieno was pepper-sprayed while he sat in his cell alone.
Otieno was later transported to Central State Hospital, a state-run inpatient psychiatric facility, to be admitted as a patient.
“State Police investigators were told he had become combative during the admission process” at Central State, according to Cabell Baskervill.
Cabell Baskervill pushed back against officers’ claims that Otieno was combative, saying video footage shows that Otieno “was not agitated and combative,” saying he was fidgety, stressed and anxious.
Cabell Baskervill alleges that seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies then held 28-year-old Otieno down for 12 minutes and suffocated him.
He died of asphyxiation by smothering, according to Cabell Baskervill, who described the incident as “cruel and a demonstration of power that is unlawful… it killed him.”
Cabell Baskervill said Otieno’s death was not reported for three and a half hours, and 911 was not alerted.
Between Otieno’s death and the call made to state police, Otieno’s body was moved, handcuffs were removed and washed and a funeral home had been called instead of the medical examiner’s office, the commonwealth’s attorney said in court.
At some point, an injection was given to Otieno by hospital staff, however Cabell Baskervill asserts that the injection was likely given after he had died of asphyxia.
Cabell Baskervill alleged that none of the seven deputies “made truthful statements to the State Police either that night or yesterday upon arrest.”
Seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees have been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Additional charges and arrests are pending, according to the commonwealth’s attorney.
Footage from Central State and Henrico County Jail captured the incidents. ABC News has not viewed the video.
The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an independent review of Otieno’s death alongside an investigation by Virginia State Police.
The FBI is now in touch with state and local investigators.
“FBI Richmond has been in contact with authorities investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Mr. Irvo Otieno. We have no further comments to share at this time,” read a statement shared with ABC News from an FBI spokesperson.
The seven arrested deputies 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; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30.
Lawyers for Disse said that the officer was asked by a supervisor to drive to Central State Hospital because of issues officers were having with the inmate and because they were told he could not be controlled with just three officers.
In court, a lawyer for Branch alleged the officer “did not administer any blows to the deceased, or violence towards him, other than simply trying to restrain him.”
Branch’s lawyer, Cary Bowen, told ABC News by phone that Cabell Baskervill was trying to fashion the case as something that is “malicious.”
“There was no weapon used. There was no pummeling or anything like that. I think everybody agrees,” Bowen said. “And the way she was casting it was that they ended up suffocating. He couldn’t breathe. And she’s acting like the guy didn’t resist and he wasn’t manic or bipolar or whatever. Just a nice guy who they’re picking on.”
The seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave.
Henrico County Sheriff Alisa A. Gregory released a statement the week after Otieno’s death, extending her “deepest sympathies and condolences” to Otieno’s family and friends.
“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,” Gregory said in the statement.
Otieno’s family saw the footage before the video was set to be released to the public.
“My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog. I saw it with my own eyes on the video,” said Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, in a Thursday press conference.
The Sheriff’s Department and local union Henrico Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 have yet to return ABC News’ request for comment.
ABC News’ Nadine El-Bawab, Beatrice Peterson, Nakylah Carter and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.
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