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A hospital surveillance video shows Irvo Otieno pinned to the floor before his death

Caroline Ouko holds a portrait of her son, Irvo Otieno, as attorney Ben Crump (left) and her older son, Leon Ochieng (right) look on at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., on Thursday.
Daniel Sangjib Min
/
AP
Caroline Ouko holds a portrait of her son, Irvo Otieno, as attorney Ben Crump (left) and her older son, Leon Ochieng (right) look on at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., on Thursday.

Updated March 21, 2023 at 5:31 PM ET

Editor's note: This story includes detailed descriptions of violence.

A surveillance video from a Virginia psychiatric facility shows seven sheriff's deputies and three hospital employees piling on top of a shackled 28-year-0ld Black man for about 11 minutes until he stopped moving, The Washington Post reports.

Also on Tuesday, a grand jury issued indictments on charges of second-degree murder against the 10 people who were charged last week in the March 6 death of Irvo Otieno.

The Post published a 9-minute clip of the video on Tuesday morning, ahead of its planned release. The newspaper says it obtained the recording by clicking on links from a public court filing by the prosecutor in the case.

The disturbing video shows Henrico County Sheriff's deputies dragging a handcuffed and shirtless Otieno into a largely empty room at Central State Hospital with several small tables, and placing him on some sort of seat, with a timestamp of 4:19 p.m. It then cuts to 4:26 p.m., when deputies move Otieno onto the floor and start to pile on top of him.

At one point, a total of 10 people — deputies and hospital employees — can be seen covering and pressing down on his entire body, as several others stand over them watching. They gradually get up and roll over Otieno's visibly limp body at 4:39 p.m., as a worker comes over to give him an injection.

Rescue efforts including CPR and defibrillation started within a few minutes and lasted less than an hour: The Post reports a medical technician draped Otieno with a white sheet at 5:48 p.m.

Otieno had been taken into custody three days earlier while suffering mental health distress near his home in Henrico County, south of Richmond, Va.

Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in two separate announcements last week that the 10 individuals had been arrested after she filed a criminal information charge, a relatively rare step that launches criminal proceedings without needing a grand jury vote.

She said at the time that she had done so to protect people in jail who would otherwise have come into contact with those law enforcement officers, and that the case would go before a grand jury the following week "for a final determination of charges going forward."

State law still requires the case to go to a grand jury before it can go to trial, Virginia Public Media reports.

The following deputies were each charged with one felony count of first-degree murder: 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.

Hospital employees Darian M. Blackwell, 23; Wavie L. Jones, 34, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, are facing the same charges.

The grand jury met on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of the planned public release of the hospital surveillance footage that captured Otieno's killing.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said on Monday that he planned to watch the video, and called for patience from the public as well as reforms in the mental health system.

"There is a judicial process going on and we have to fully respect that, and I ask everybody to please fully respect it," Youngkin said. "We also can just see the heart-wrenching nature of the challenges in our behavioral health system."

On Tuesday, Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement that her office will focus on what happened at the jail and hospital in her county.

"Our responsibility is to determine what happened in Henrico – were any laws broken and, if so, who is held accountable," Taylor said.

"I am committed to ensuring this investigation of these most tragic circumstances where a young man has died will be thorough and complete. His family and all of Henrico deserves no less," she added.

A refresher on the case

Otieno's attorneys, Mark Krudys and Ben Crump, have described his death as the culmination of a "continuum of abuse" he faced after being taken into custody during an episode of mental health distress on March 3.

Police briefly brought Otieno to a local hospital but transferred him to a jail after they say he "became physically assaultive" — though his family has said he was relaxed, even asleep at one point, and his lawyers have questioned why he wasn't allowed to remain at the hospital for 72 hours.

Otieno then spent three days in jail, where his attorneys say he was pepper sprayed (and unable to rinse his eyes because he was handcuffed) and deprived of his medications, which his mother had repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to get him at the hospital.

They say the video shows deputies aggressively entering Otieno's small cell — where he was sitting naked, with feces on the floor — and carrying him out by the arms and legs. He was taken with heavy police presence to Central State Hospital, a state-run inpatient psychiatric facility some 50 miles away.

Henrico County sheriff's deputies arrived at the hospital at 3:58 p.m. to admit Otieno as a patient, according to the prosecutor. His lawyers, who have seen surveillance video from inside the hospital, say he was physically restrained — with handcuffs and leg irons — and appeared "almost lifeless" upon entering the room.

According to the prosecutor's office statement, deputies later told state police that Otieno had become "combative during the admission process," which his lawyers and family members say is disproved by the video, which they viewed last Thursday.

It shows the deputies pushing Otieno to the floor and piling on top of him for over 11 minutes.

Krudys said no one in the full room intervened, and that they waited a considerable amount of time before starting rescue efforts and, eventually, calling Virginia State Police — who arrived on the scene more than three hours later at 7:28 p.m.

Otieno "died of asphyxia due to being smothered," according to Baskervill. She later said in court that in between his death and the call to state police, his body was moved, handcuffs removed and washed and a funeral home had been called instead of the medical examiner's office, according to ABC News.

She also alleged that none of the deputies "made truthful statements to the State Police either that night or ... upon arrest."

Irvo Otieno pictured in an undated photo. His family moved to the U.S. from Kenya when he was 4 years old, and remembers him for his big heart and passion for music.
Ben Crump Law / AP
/
AP
Irvo Otieno pictured in an undated photo. His family moved to the U.S. from Kenya when he was 4 years old, and remembers him for his big heart and passion for music.

Defense attorneys tried to block release of the video

Crump said at a news conference last week that the video contradicts deputies' accounts and provides "visual evidence of how they treated this young man who was posing no threat to them."

The surveillance video does not include sound, and Crump said there was no police body-worn camera footage from the room.

"My son was treated like a dog — worse than a dog — I saw it with my own eyes on the video," Caroline Ouko said. "He was treated inhumanely, and it was traumatic and it was systematic."

Defense attorneys tried to block the public release of the video through court filings submitted on Monday, arguing that it could influence the view of potential jurors and in doing so prevent the defendants from getting a fair trial, The Washington Post reports. Attorneys for two of the deputies have said their clients are innocent, it adds.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.