Video shows Irvo Otieno pinned to floor before his death
Mar 21, 2023, 7:28 AM
(Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
DINWIDDIE, Va. (AP) — A group of sheriff’s deputies and other personnel at a Virginia mental hospital forcibly pinned patient Irvo Otieno to the ground until he was motionless and limp, then began unsuccessful resuscitation efforts, according to newly obtained surveillance video.
The video, which was obtained through a link included in public court filings, shows the workers pressing down on a prone handcuffed and shackled Otieno. His death March 6 while being admitted to Central State Hospital has led to second-degree murder charges against seven deputies and three hospital workers.
Relatives of the 28-year-old Otieno were shown the video last week by a prosecutor, Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill, who said at one point that she planned to publicly release it Tuesday. But attorneys for at least two of the defendants sought to block its release to the public, arguing that it could hinder a fair trial.
Otieno was brought to the hospital south of Richmond that provides psychiatric care after spending multiple days in police custody.
The video, which has no sound, shows a shackled and handcuffed Otieno being led into a room with tables and chairs. He is hauled toward a seat before eventually slumping to the floor.
An increasing number of workers lay their hands on him as he appears to start to move on the floor. At one point, it appears as many as 10 people are pressing down on his body. Otieno’s body is difficult to see at times, obscured by the employees on top of him or because the camera angle was blocked by someone standing.
The crowd steps back from his body, which appears limp. Resuscitation efforts eventually begin.
The prosecutor charged the 10 defendants through a process known as a criminal information. Baskervill has said the case will be presented to a grand jury “for a final determination of charges going forward.” A grand jury was meeting Tuesday morning, court records show.
Several defendants also had either bail hearings or a hearing dealing with the appointment of counsel.
The Associated Press sought comment about the video from defense attorneys for each of the defendants who have obtained counsel. None immediately responded to emails or phone calls.
Douglas Ramseur, who represents one of the hospital employees, told The Washington Post — which first obtained the footage — he was concerned that the court filing with the video link was made “with the intention of making the information available to the media and public after having received a motion by the defense seeking to prevent just such a disclosure.”
“We are considering all our legal remedies,” Ramseur wrote in an email, the newspaper reported.
Otieno’s family spoke at a news conference last week after seeing the footage, which they called heartbreaking and disturbing. They have equated his treatment to torture and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the case.
The final autopsy findings have not yet been released.