Surveillance footage has been released showing yet another Black man being killed while in the custody of police. The video shows Irvo Otieno’s final moments on March 6 at Virginia’s Central State Hospital.
According to the New York Times, “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.”
During the intake process several officers dragged “Otieno, who appears to be handcuffed and shackled at the ankles, into an admissions room, initially moving him toward a table before eventually laying him down and restraining him on the ground.”
Reportedly, Otieno was deprived of the medication for his mental illness while jailed, and although the video has no audio, one can see that at one juncture, there were “as many as 10 sheriff’s deputies and medical staff at the hospital can be seen crowded around the Virginia man on the floor as several others stand nearby…Otieno was restrained for around 11 minutes before he could be seen not moving.”
Otieno was pronounced dead at the scene, and a preliminary report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner “identified asphyxiation as a cause of death.”
Law enforcement did try to claim that Otieno was violent; however, Ann Cabell Baskervill, prosecutor for Dinwiddie County said, “There is video footage of exactly what happened, and he was not agitated and combative.”
Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko who viewed the footage last week, said her son was “treated like a dog, worse than a dog…He was murdered. They smothered the breath out of my baby. They murdered my baby.”
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the family, and spoke to reporters, saying “What we just viewed … was commentary on how inhumane law enforcement officials treat people who are having a mental health crisis as criminals, rather than treating them as people who are in need of help.”
Per court documents, “[f]our of the deputies weighed at least 250 pounds each, with the heaviest weighing 320 pounds.”
Initially attorneys for the defendants tried to suppress the stop the video from being released to the public, but the Washington Post was able to obtain a copy from public court filings that listed a Dropbox link.
All seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies and three employees of the hospital present at the incident face second-degree murder charges related to Otieno’s death. Dinwiddie County’s grand jury is meeting today “for a final determination of charges.”