Surveillance video released by a prosecutor Tuesday shows Irvo Otieno being pinned to the floor by multiple security officers at a Virginia state mental health facility in the moments leading up to his death earlier this month.
The video offers further details of the final moments of Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man who died March 6 as he was transferred from a Henrico County jail to Central State Hospital, according to Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill.
Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees have been charged with second-degree murder. In a hearing last week for the charges against the deputies, Baskerville told the court, “They smothered him to death.”
The video begins as Otieno, bound by his hands and feet, is forcibly taken into a room and dragged into an upright seated position on the floor with his back against a chair. Ten minutes later, after Otieno has turned onto his side with three people holding him, his body jerks, and five more deputies and workers move to pin Otieno to the floor.
Follow live updates
A clear view of Otieno is blocked in much of the video, but one deputy appears to be lying across Otieno for most of the incident as he is forced onto his stomach. Eventually Otieno is rolled onto his back, where several deputies appear to be restraining him with their knees. One deputy holds Otieno’s head still by grabbing his braided hair. The recording does not include audio.
After 12 minutes of Otieno being pinned to the ground, one deputy can be seen shaking Otieno’s hair and attempting to take a neck pulse. Otieno is unresponsive. Three more minutes pass before CPR begins, with Otieno’s limbs still shackled.
Medical workers from the hospital are seen converging on the room as CPR continues for nearly an hour. After he is pronounced dead, Otieno is covered in a white sheet, still lying on the floor, his body briefly left alone in the room.
The time stamp on the video shows Otieno’s body being covered at 5:48 p.m.
Baskervill initially declined to release the video but changed course after Otieno’s family approved.
Otieno’s family and their attorneys watched the video last week and said they were disturbed by how Otieno was treated during a mental health crisis.
“My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog,” Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said at a news conference. “I saw it with my own eyes on the video.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, compared the video to that of the murder of George Floyd, who was handcuffed, forced to the ground and held down by Minneapolis police officers in May 2020. That case sparked nationwide protests over police use of force, especially against people of color.
The video is a “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,” he said.
Otieno’s family is originally from Kenya, and Irvo came to the US at age 4, family attorney Mark Krudys told CNN.
He graduated in 2012 from Douglas S. Freeman High School, where – according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch – he played football and basketball, and he attended college in California. Otieno also had a passion for music and was working to become a hip-hop artist, his family said.
Yet he also struggled with mental illness, his family said. Ouko said her son had long stretches where “(you) wouldn’t even know something was wrong,” and then there were times when “he would go into some kind of distress and then you know he needs to see a doctor.”
On March 3, Henrico Police responded to a report of a possible burglary and encountered Otieno, police said in a news release. Police officers – along with the county’s crisis intervention team – put him under an emergency custody order due to their interactions with and observations of him, police said.
According to Virginia law, a person can be placed under an emergency custody order when there is reason to believe they could hurt themselves or others as a result of mental illness.
Krudys said Otieno was experiencing a mental health crisis on March 3, and his mother was at the scene and implored police not to be aggressive with him. Henrico Police officers eventually placed Otieno into custody without further incident, Krudys said.
Otieno was taken for evaluation to a hospital, where he became “physically assaultive towards officers,” police said. He was held on three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism, police said.
Otieno was then transferred to the Henrico County Jail West.
At around 4 p.m. on March 6, Otieno was taken to be admitted to Central State Hospital, a state-run mental health facility south of Richmond, by the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office, according to the commonwealth attorney’s office. It’s not clear why deputies transferred Otieno.
State police investigators were later told Otieno became “combative” and was “physically restrained” during the intake process, the attorney’s office said in a statement on March 14. He died at the hospital, the office said.
The video was key to the 10 people being charged with second-degree murder, Baskervill, the prosecutor said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Baskervill, referring to video showing his death.
Otieno was held on the ground in handcuffs and leg irons for 12 minutes, Baskervill said. She characterized his behavior during that time as “being distressed, rather than assaultive, combative.”
Seven Henrico County deputies, who turned themselves in to state police last week, are on administrative leave as investigations by their agency and state police continue, Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement.
CNN has sought comment from the deputies. Caleb Kershner, the attorney for deputy Randy Joseph Boyer, told CNN last week they had yet to see video but claimed “nothing was outside of the ordinary” in the lead up to his death.
“They delivered him as fast as they could because obviously this was a man in tremendous need of some sort of medical attention,” Kershner said. He added that his client noted they had dealt with Otieno “for a long time and he had a significant amount of violent noncompliance.”
Peter B. Baruch, an attorney for deputy Bradley Thomas Disse, said he “is looking forward to his opportunity to try this case and for the full truth to be shared in court and being vindicated.”
Three Central State Hospital workers who were arrested last week have been placed on leave “pending the results of the legal proceedings,” the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Central State Hospital said in a statement.
They were expected to appear in court Tuesday before a grand jury, according to online court records. It was not clear if they have attorneys.
The Henrico Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, the local law enforcement officers’ union, “stands behind” the deputies, it said in a statement on Facebook.
“Policing in America today is difficult, made even more so by the possibility of being criminally charged while performing their duty,” the group said. “The death of Mr. Otieno was tragic, and we express our condolences to his family. We also stand behind the seven accused deputies now charged with murder by the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill.”