Texarkana Gazette

Prosecutor: Black man smothered to death at mental hospital


DINWIDDIE, Va. — Security camera footage from a state mental hospital shows a Black Virginia man who was handcuffed and shackled being pinned to the ground by seven deputies who are now facing second-degree murder charges in his death, officials said Thursday.

Dinwiddie County Commonweal­th’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said during the seven deputies’ first court hearing Wednesday that Irvo Otieno was smothered to death, local news outlets reported.

During a news conference Thursday, Mark Krudys, an attorney for Otieno’s family, described how all seven of the deputies pushed down “every part of his body” with “absolute brutality.”

“I was not really prepared to see this,” Krudys said of the video footage, stressing that Otieno was in handcuffs and leg irons.

“You can see that they’re putting their back into it. Every part of his body is being pushed down with absolute brutality. You cannot even see his image many times.”

Baskervill said in court that the officers had no justificat­ion for putting Otieno, who was being checked in, on the floor. The prosecutor said Otieno did not appear combative and was sitting in a chair before being pulled to the floor by the officers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

It was a “demonstrat­ion of power that was unlawful,” the prosecutor said, according to the newspaper.

The Commonweal­th’s Attorney’s Office for Dinwiddie County said Thursday in a news release that three hospital employees have also been charged in Otieno’s death.

The prosecutor identified the three hospital employees also charged with second-degree murder as Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfie­ld; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie. It wasn’t immediatel­y clear if the three had attorneys who could speak on their behalf. A spokeswoma­n for the state police said that she didn’t know if they had attorneys.

Otieno, a 28-year-old from Henrico County, had a history of mental health struggles and was experienci­ng mental distress at the time of his initial encounter with law enforcemen­t earlier this month, according to statements from his family and one of their attorneys. He died March 6 as he was being admitted to Central State Hospital south of Richmond, Baskervill said in a news release Tuesday announcing the charges against seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies.

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