Irvo Otieno, right, with his family (Ben Crump Law)
Law enforcement officers and staff at a Virginia psychiatric hospital piled onto 28-year-old Irvo Otieno for more than 10 minutes in the moments leading up to his death earlier this month, according to hospital surveillance footage obtained by the Washington Post.
The surveillance footage from Central State Hospital in Petersburg shows deputies dragging a shackled Otieno into a room and forcing him to the ground. The video then shows that for several minutes, officers subdued Otieno, who is barely visible in the footage because so many deputies and hospital workers are on top of him and holding him down—at one point, as many as 10 people. The video, which has no sound, then shows Otieno’s limp, lifeless body on the floor at 4:39 p.m., according to a timestamp. Hospital staff then performed chest compressions and used a defibrillator machine in an attempt to revive Otieno, but their efforts were unsuccessful. At 5:48 p.m, a medical technician draped a white sheet over Otieno’s body, according to the Post. Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill said in a court hearing last week that the preliminary cause of Otieno’s death was asphyxia. A total of seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Deputies and three workers at Virginia’s Central State Hospital have been charged with murder. Baskervill reportedly said she would release the video Tuesday as she plans to seek an indictment, but it was made public early when prosecutors left a Dropbox link in court filings, the Post reported. Attorneys for two of the deputies charged sought to block the release of the video.
The Post published more than nine minutes of footage, but deputies and hospital workers were on top of Otieno for 11 minutes total, the Post reported, and at last week’s hearing Baskervill said it was 12 minutes. VICE News has not independently verified the footage or seen the full video. Baskervill did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but reportedly told the Post in an email Tuesday morning that she had “no agenda here other than transparency” regarding the release of the video. Henrico, Va. police said they encountered Otieno on March 3 while responding to a report of a possible burglary, and placed him under an emergency custody order to be taken to a hospital for an evaluation. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, one of the lawyers retained by Otieno’s family, said in a press conference last week that Otieno was experiencing a mental health crisis; he began struggling with mental illness when he was a teenager and had previously been in a mental health facility, his mother told the AP last week.
Henrico police said that at the hospital, Otieno “became physically assaultive towards officers,” and was later charged with multiple accounts of assault on a law enforcement officer. Afterwards, he was taken to the Henrico County jail, whic his managed by the county Sheriff’s Office. Otieno’s family has said that at the jail he was denied access to medication and subjected to squalid conditions. Family attorney Mark Krudys last week said that jail surveillance video, which has not yet been released, shows Otieno “naked in his cell” and “being treated in a subhuman manner.”“The whole day he was there, no clothing being provided to him, feces on the floor,” Krudys said. “When the handcuffs are put on him, he is force-rushed and about five deputies get on him at that point.” The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement last week that the involved deputies had been placed on administrative leave and that the office was conducting its own investigation, as well as “cooperating fully with the investigation of the Virginia State Police.” Otieno’s family viewed the hospital surveillance footage last week. “My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog,” Otieno’s mother Caroline Ouko said during last week’s press conference. “I saw it with my own eyes in the video.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.