A video was set to be released on Tuesday showing an encounter between a Black man, Irvo Otieno, and sheriff’s deputies that prosecutors and a lawyer have said led to the man’s death at a state hospital in Virginia this month. Seven sheriff’s deputies have been charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Otieno’s death, prosecutors said.
Mr. Otieno, 28, had a history of mental illness. He appeared to have died from oxygen deficiency on March 6 at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, his family’s lawyer, Mark Krudys, said in an interview last week. Officers smothered him as he lay on the ground in handcuffs and leg shackles, Mr. Krudys and the Dinwiddie County prosecutor’s office said.
Three hospital employees have also been charged with second-degree murder, the prosecutor’s office said.
The Dinwiddie County prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, had announced that she was publicly releasing the video on Tuesday, though some defense lawyers had filed motions to block its release.
Mr. Otieno’s family said he was deprived of medication while in jail that he needed for his mental illness. They disputed that he was violent at the hospital.
The seven deputies from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office have been placed on administrative leave, the authorities there said. Sheriff Alisa Gregory said the events of March 6 “represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost.”
In court last Wednesday, Ms. Baskervill said that Mr. Otieno had suffocated from the weight of the deputies smothering him, CBS 6 News reported.
“There is video footage of exactly what happened, and he was not agitated and combative,” Ms. Baskervill said of Mr. Otieno. “He was held down on the ground, pinned on the ground for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged here.”
Mr. Otieno was a well-known athlete growing up in Henrico, Mr. Krudys said. He began struggling with his mental health as a young adult. On March 3, he appeared to be experiencing distress and walked to a neighbor’s lawn, where he picked up some solar-powered lights laid out on the property, Mr. Krudys said.
A neighbor called the Henrico Police Department. Officers placed him under an emergency custody order before taking him to a hospital “for further evaluation,” the police said in a statement.
At the hospital, police said, Mr. Otieno was “physically assaultive” toward officers, who arrested him, took him to the Henrico County Jail and charged him with three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and one count each of disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.
On March 6, Mr. Otieno was taken from the jail to the state hospital, where, the prosecutor said, the deputies smothered him.
Eduardo Medina and Campbell Robertson contributed reporting.