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A Virginia prosecutor has charged seven officers and three hospital employees with murder for the death of a Black shackled inmate in a state psychiatric hospital. 

Dinwiddie County’s Chief Prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill has charged seven Henrico Sheriff’s Deputies and three Central State Hospital “special management technicians” with second-degree murder for the killing of 28-year-old Irvo Noel Otieno at a psychiatric hospital.

Otieno was taken into emergency custody on March 3 after experiencing a mental health crisis. After spending three days in a local jail, Otieno was being transferred to Central State Hospital, a psychiatric facility, when Baskervill said he was “smothered to death.”

Irvo N. Otieno, right, is pictured with his brother, Leon Ochieng, and his mother, Caroline Ouko.
Ben Crump Law

“They smothered him to death,” she said. “He died of asphyxia due to being smothered,” Baskervill said in court.

Otieno was restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles throughout the hospital intake process when surveillance video shows seven sheriff’s deputies holding him on the ground for close to 12 minutes.

The video is “extremely clear, extremely alarming,” Baskervill said, adding that it shows “deliberate and cruel treatment.”

Baskervill filed a criminal information charge, a charge not needing a grand jury’s vote, against the sheriff’s deputies in an attempt to “protect other Henrico County Jail residents,” she told NPR.

“This legal tactic is for the purpose of protecting [others]. It allows for a justified and immediate removal of these seven individuals from their current capacities,” she said.

Otieno Family Views Surveillance Video, Wants Footage Released After Officers Charged

On Thursday March 16, Otieno’s family viewed the hospital’s surveillance video in Baskervill’s office before holding a press conference outside the Dinwiddie courthouse. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, joined them outside the Dinwiddie courthouse during the press conference.

“My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog,” Otieno’s mother said. “ I saw it with my own eyes on the video.”

“Why would any law enforcement officer put a knee on the neck of a person who is face down, handcuffed, and restrained,” attorney Crump said. The description is reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd, who was face down, handcuffed, and restrained when former officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes killing him.

Prosecutor Baskervill said Friday that she plans to release the surveillance video sometime this week with the family’s blessing.

“Now that the family has had the private opportunity to view the tragic video, and with their blessing and encouragement, I plan to release the video at the beginning of the week,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs that helped give him a...