Contact Me By Email

Contact Me By Email

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Video shows Va. deputies pile on top of Irvo Otieno before his death - The Washington Post


Video shows Va. deputies pile on top of Irvo Otieno before his death

Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers have been charged with murder in the case.

As many as 10 sheriff’s deputies and medical staff at Virginia’s Central State Hospital can be seen piling on top of a shackled Irvo N. Otieno for approximately 11 minutes until he stops moving, according to new video showing the encounter that led to the 28-year-old Black man’s death.

The hospital surveillance video, which has no sound, shows Otieno’s final moments on March 6, from the time Henrico County sheriff’s deputies drag him into a hospital admissions room in handcuffs and leg irons, to the 11 minutes in which they restrain Otieno on the ground, to the moment when they release Otieno’s limp body around 4:40 p.m.

Minutes later, video shows workers beginning to apply chest compressions and a defibrillator machine to Otieno’s upper body, before a medical technician drapes him with a white sheet at 5:48 p.m.

A Virginia prosecutor has charged seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three staff members at the hospital with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death, and has said she expects more arrests and charges.

The prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, said she was planning to release the video to the public on Tuesday. The Washington Post obtained it ahead of the release by clicking on Dropbox links, which Baskervill listed in a public court filing as part of her obligation to turn over relevant information to defense attorneys. Attorneys for two defendants sought to block the release of the video in court filings submitted Monday, arguing that by releasing evidence or giving statements to the news media, prosecutors could influence the pool of potential jurors, and prevent the defendants from receiving a fair trial.

Baskervill plans to seek an indictment Tuesday for the 10 people charged in Otieno’s death, according to her office. A grand jury was scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to review the case, court records show. The prosecutor has said Otieno died of asphyxia as law enforcement officers and hospital staff piled on him.

Otieno’s family and their civil rights attorneys, Ben Crump and Mark Krudys, viewed the hospital surveillance video last week and urged prosecutors to release it publicly.

“My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog,” Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, told reporters last week at a news conference with the family attorneys. “I saw it with my own eyes in the video. He was treated inhumanely, and it was traumatic, and it was systemic.”

Because the video had no sound, it was not clear what was said, but one of the deputies appeared to be laughing at one point, Krudys said.

The video footage also shows Otieno arriving at the hospital on March 6, and the Dropbox links in Baskervill’s filing included 911 tapes of hospital workers apparently calling for help after the incident and other emergency communications.

Surveillance video taken outside Central State Hospital shows two SUVs pulling up at 3:58 p.m., according to timestamps on the footage. For nearly 20 minutes, sheriff’s deputies and hospital staff are seen milling around the entrance, close to the vehicles. At 4:16 p.m., a shackled and handcuffed Otieno is taken out of the back seat of the first SUV and walked by deputies into the hospital.

Footage taken just inside the hospital shows the deputies forcing Otieno forward — he remains on his feet — as hospital staff trail behind through the entrance. Sheriff’s deputies appear in control of the situation as Otieno is brought down a hallway and through an open door at 4:17 p.m.

Otieno is next seen in surveillance video timestamped at 4:19 p.m., as he enters the admissions area of the hospital. The roughly two-minute gap — based on timestamps — is not accounted for in video reviewed by The Post on Monday.

Four to five sheriff’s deputies can be seen dragging Otieno into the admissions room. Then, two sheriff’s deputies from Henrico County get into position, holding down Otieno as he sits on the ground, with his back propped against a seat.

But after Otieno, who is in handcuffs and leg irons, appears to make a movement shortly before 4:28 p.m., more deputies and hospital staff bear down on him. At least eight people pile on top of Otieno, some holding down his legs, while others restrain his upper body.

At 4:31 p.m., the group seems to lose its grip on Otieno for a moment, and they roll him around on the ground. Nine or 10 people are holding down Otieno. Hospital staff are in the room watching or helping to restrain him.

Deputies and staff ease their hold on Otieno and roll him onto his side moments before 4:40 p.m. Otieno is shirtless and appears not to be moving. One minute later, a medical worker lowers the top of Otieno’s pants and administers an injection. He is still immobile. Resuscitation efforts, including chest compressions and defibrillator charges, take up less than one hour on the video.

“You’ll note that those resuscitation efforts were very slow in beginning,” Krudys said Monday. Otieno’s mother wants the public to see the video, Krudys said.

“She feels very strongly that the public should see what happened to her son,” he said.

Attorneys for two of the deputies have previously said that their clients are innocent. An attorney for one of the hospital workers charged in the case criticized the prosecutor’s filing with the Dropbox links.

“We are concerned that this response was filed by the prosecution 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,” Douglas Ramseur, who represents Wavie Jones, said in an email Monday night. “We are considering all our legal remedies.”

Baskervill did not respond to requests for comment Monday night.

Audio recordings of 911 calls and emergency communications — which have file names appearing to indicate when they occurred — show hospital staff growing impatient as they await an ambulance.

The first call seems to come in at around 4:40 p.m. The dispatcher appears to have trouble hearing or understanding a woman who calls from the hospital to say that they have a patient who is no longer breathing.

“We have an emergency in building 39,” the woman at the hospital says. “We have a newly admitted [patient] but he is no longer breathing. … The patient is a new admission and then he’s very aggressive. So they’re doing a CPR now. There’s no pulse anymore.”

The dispatcher responds: “I’m sorry, is the patient aggressive or is he not breathing?”

“He used to be aggressive, right,” the woman at the hospital says.

In a call that seems to be marked as coming at 5:02 p.m., a woman who’d identified herself in a previous call as “Harrison in admissions” is heard calling the Dinwiddie County dispatcher again.

“We called at least 15 minutes ago, we had an emergency 15, 20 minutes ago,” the hospital worker says.

“Yes, ma’am,” the female dispatcher responds. “We have medics en route.”

“You said they were en route the last time,” the hospital worker says. “I mean, how far — where they coming from? Were they coming from Southside?”

The dispatcher responds that the medics “are coming as quickly as they can” and explains that they also had been handling a motor vehicle accident, but the hospital worker is exasperated.

“This is just totally unacceptable, and y’all know it, too,” she says. “Totally unacceptable.”

“They’re coming,” the dispatcher assures her.

A stretcher can be seen in the admissions room at 5:08 p.m.

The attorneys for Otieno’s family said he was mistreated at the Henrico County Jail, where he was first taken by authorities on March 3 after police responded to a call for service in his neighborhood, and Otieno’s mother sought to get him medical help. Police first took him to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, then booked him in the jail when he became unruly, authorities said. Otieno was then taken to Central State Hospital three days later, on March 6.

Krudys said the jail surveillance video, which Otieno’s family for the most part declined to watch, was in some ways more graphic than the images from the hospital. Attorneys for Otieno’s family have said he was held naked in a cell, and was battered and pepper-sprayed by Henrico County sheriff’s office employees. The jail video was not available Monday.

Separate from Baskervill’s investigation, the Henrico County commonwealth’s attorney, Shannon Taylor, said last week that her office would conduct “a thorough and comprehensive investigation” of the events at the jail on March 6, including the video evidence.

“I understand and share the public’s concerns and will do whatever I can to determine what occurred and how,” Taylor said in a statement.

Federal law enforcement agencies in Virginia have not been asked to assist local authorities investigating Otieno’s death, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make public comments about the case.

“FBI Richmond has been in contact with authorities investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Mr. Irvo Otieno,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Richmond said Friday. “We have no further comments to share at this time.”

Court records show the Henrico County sheriff’s deputies charged so far are Virginia residents Jermaine Branch, 45, Randy Boyer, 57, Bradley Disse, 43, Tabitha Levere, 50, and Brandon Rodgers, 48, all of Henrico; as well as Dwayne Bramble, 37, of Sandston; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30, of North Chesterfield.

The hospital workers charged are: Darian Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.

Two of the 10 defendants, Branch and Disse, had been released on bond as of Monday afternoon, with the others scheduled for bond hearings Tuesday and Wednesday.

Salvador Rizzo covers crime and justice in Virginia for The Washington Post. He was a reporter for The Fact Checker from 2018 to 2021 and previously covered New Jersey politics. Twitter
Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she was a political columnist and food writer at the Baltimore Sun, and she has also worked for the Associated Press, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Hartford Courant. Twitter
Samuel Oakford is a video reporter for The Washington Post's Visual Forensics team. Before joining The Post, he worked as a senior journalist at Storyful and a reporter for Vice News at the United Nations. He was also a reporter for the civilian harm monitor Airwars and conducted open source investigations for Bellingcat's Yemen Project."

No comments:

Post a Comment