Mar 15, 2023 - World

7 Virginia deputies charged in death of man at mental health facility

Gavel, hammer and book (Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies were charged with second-degree murder Tuesday in connection with the death of a Black man at a state mental hospital, AP reports.

Driving the news: Irvo Otieno, 28, died last week while physically restrained during the intake process at a mental health facility, where he was being transferred to from county jail, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said per AP.

  • "Mr. Otieno’s family was notified by my office this morning of these charges and I will continue to work with and for his family in relation to pursuing this case to its fullest extent," she said.
  • The Henrico Sheriff’s Office, Henrico Police and the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's office did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Details: Baskervill said in court Wednesday that Otieno, who was in handcuffs and leg irons, was held on the ground for 12 minutes by the seven deputies, CNN reports.

  • "They smothered him to death," Baskervill said. "He died of asphyxia due to being smothered."
  • The incident was captured on video, she said, adding that it's "extremely clear, extremely alarming."

Of note: Henrico County Police previously said in a news release that officers responded to a report of a possible burglary and identified Otieno as a potential suspect.

  • They put him under an emergency custody order "based on their interaction with and observation" of him.
  • Otieno was taken to a hospital for evaluation, where police said he "became physically assaultive towards officers," who arrested him and took him to a local jail managed by the Henrico Sheriff’s Office.

The seven deputies were placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the case, county Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement Tuesday.

  • "As an office, we are cooperating fully with the investigation of the Virginia State Police," she said, adding that the sheriff's office is also conducting its own independent review.
  • The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost," Gregory said. "This loss is felt by not only those close to him but our entire community."

Zoom out: The incident comes as the use of force by law enforcement is facing renewed criticism, particularly after the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man​ who died days after being beaten by officers during a traffic stop in January.

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