A grand jury has indicted seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies and three hospital staffers involved in the death of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno.
The indictments come just hours after the release of the surveillance footage of his death showed people pushing and pinning him to the ground until he died.
The video was obtained by the Washington Post hours before its expected release on Tuesday, showing around seven police officers from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office dragging Otieno out of his room where he was staying in the Central State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Virginia, on March 6. Officers handcuffed and shackled his legs and pinned him to the ground for nearly 11 minutes until his death while three staffers looked on without interfering.
All 10 of them were charged by Dinwiddie County prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill with second-degree murder on Wednesday, but the grand jury brought the indictment down on Tuesday.
The deputies were identified as Kaivell Dajour Sanders, 30; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50; and Randy Joseph Boyer, 57.
“There is video footage of exactly what happened, and he was not agitated and combative. He was held down on the ground, pinned on the ground for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged here,” Baskervill said last Wednesday.
Baskervill announced she would release the video to the public on Tuesday, though defense lawyers filed motions to block the release. However, the Washington Post accessed it and published it through a court filing search.
Otieno, 28, who had been struggling with mental health for a long period of time, had been taken from his home to a county jail three days earlier.
On March 3, Otieno seemed to be in distress and went to a neighbor’s lawn, picking up solar-powered lights laid out on the property, prompting a neighbor to call the police. Officers arrested him under an emergency custody order before taking him to the hospital for “further evaluation,” per a police statement. Otieno’s family supported the decision, asking the police not to be aggressive with him.
However, police said that Otieno became “physically assaultive towards officers,” so they took him to Henrico County Jail. The officers then charged him with disorderly conduct, three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, and vandalism.
Earlier on March 6, sheriff’s deputies moved Otieno back to the hospital. Later, officers can be seen in the video footage pinning Otieno’s legs and arms and pushing him to the floor, eventually piling on top of him to keep him restrained until he died.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled his cause of death as asphyxiation in its preliminary report.
“What I saw today was heartbreaking, America. It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured,” Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, said when she saw the footage last week.
Otieno’s family says he did not receive the medication that he needed while he was in jail and disputed that he was violent during his stay at the hospital.
The incident comes months after graphic and violent video footage was released showing the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis Police Department officers in Tennessee.