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3 hospital employees, 7 deputies charged with murder in death of Black Virginia man

By: Jakob Cordes, Jeremy Tanner, Delaney Murray, and Tannock Blair

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Ten people, including three Virginia mental hospital employees and seven sheriff’s deputies, have been charged with murder in the death of a 28-year-old Black man seen in security video being pinned to the ground, according to officials.

Irvo Otieno was arrested by Henrico Police on March 3. Days later, on March 6, Henrico Sheriff’s deputies took him to Central State, a psychiatric hospital in Dinwiddie. They claimed he became combative and the deputies restrained him. He was later declared dead.

The medical examiner’s preliminary ruling was that Otieno’s death was a homicide caused by asphyxiation.

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 Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, and the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

The three employees of Central State Hospital now charged with second degree murder in Otieno’s death, along with the seven deputies charged Tuesday, are Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.

Three Central State Hospital employees have now been charged with murder in the death of Irvo Otieno. Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie were taken into custody at Meherrin Regional Jail. (Virginia State Police)

On Thursday, Otieno’s family was joined by their lawyers — Ben Crump and Mark Krudys — to speak about the surveillance footage, which Krudys said showed all seven deputies pushing down “every part of his body” with “absolute brutality.”

Caroline Ouko, mother of Irvo Otieno, holds a portrait of her son with attorney Ben Crump, left, her older son, Leon Ochieng and attorney Mark Krudys at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. There is goodness in his music and that’s all I’m left with now — he’s gone,” Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said at the news conference while clutching a framed photo of her son. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Visitors walk toward Building 114, the S.T.A.R. Center, at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, Va., on May 17, 2018. Seven Virginia sheriff’s office employees have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a 28-year-old man at Central State Hospital last week, a local prosecutor said Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

“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.”

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.

Krudys said the footage from the hospital showed a lack of urgency to help Otieno after the deputies determined “that he was lifeless and not breathing.”

‘They smothered him’: Dinwiddie top prosecutor points the finger at seven Henrico deputies in Irvo Otieno’s death

“And then you see people standing around with their hands in their pockets and looking away,” Krudys said at the news conference. “And there’s an appreciable period of time before any kind of rescue efforts are started.”

After CPR is administered, the deputies “drift away out of the room and into a conversation by themselves,” Krudys said.

Otieno, whose family is from Kenya, was a deeply loved and well-regarded young man, an aspiring musician who had been a well-known high school athlete in the area, Krudys said. Otieno was 4 years old when he moved to the U.S.

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