Prosecutor to release video of death of man in custody
DINWIDDIE, Va. (AP) — Prosecutors plan next week to release the video that led authorities in Virginia to charge seven deputies and three state mental hospital employees with second-degree murder in the death of a handcuffed and shackled man.
The family of Irvo Otieno saw the video of his death Thursday. With their blessing, the footage will be released to the public in the next several days, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Attorneys for the family described the video to reporters as 12 agonizing minutes of deputies pushing down and smothering Otineo, a Black man whose arms and legs were restrained.
“You can see that they’re putting their back into it. Every part of his body is being pushed down with absolute brutality,” family attorney Mark Krudys said.
Prosecutors said Otieno, 28, didn’t appear to be combative and was sitting in a chair when he was pulled down by officers.
The 12-minute video also showed a lack of urgency to help Otieno after the deputies determined “that he was lifeless and not breathing,” Krudys said.
Ten people so far have been charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death — seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three people employed by the hospital.
Attorneys for the people arrested have not seen the video yet.
“They show the plaintiffs’ attorneys the video. But we’re representing these people charged with murder that are locked up. It’s really disappointing. It seems like it’s more important to curry public favor, to try the case in the media, instead of letting the criminal justice process work the way it’s supposed to work,” defense attorney Peter Baruch told the Richmond newspaper.
Otieno’s case marks the latest example of a Black man’s in-custody death that has law enforcement under scrutiny. It follows the the fatal beating of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Otieno, who was a child when his family emigrated from Kenya and grew up in suburban Richmond, 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, his family and their attorneys said.
That set off a chain of events that led to him spending several days in custody before authorities say he died March 6 as he was being admitted to the Central State Hospital south of Richmond.