Nationally recognized civil rights attorney Ben Crump has joined local attorney Mark Krudys in representing the family of Irvo Otieno, a mental health patient who died last week in the custody of Henrico County sheriff's deputies while being admitted to Central State Hospital.
Otieno's family and their attorneys will hold a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Dinwiddie County Courthouse. In a news release, a Crump media spokesperson said the family will view the Central State Hospital security camera video that Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill has said captures the incident leading to Otieno's death.
"It is truly shocking that nearly three years after the brutal killing of George Floyd by police, another family is grieving a loved one who allegedly died in nearly the same exact manner - being pinned down by police for 12 agonizing minutes," Crump, who represented the family of Floyd, said in a statement. "The family has not yet seen the video, but what has been described to us paints a heinous and inhumane image."
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"We are encouraged that these officers have been charged and arrested, but this is just the first step of what will be a long and painful journey," Crump added. "We will continue to lift the family in prayer as we seek full justice for Irvo."
Meanwhile, the prosecutor's office announced that three more people have been charged in connection with Otieno's death. They were identified as employees of Central State Hospital; Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg, Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddle.
“The criminal information warrants are based on the evidence collected, analyzed and evaluated to-date,” said Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill.
“A key element of that evidence is the surveillance video from Central State Hospital that captures the intake process. To maintain the integrity of the criminal justice process at this point, I am not able to publicly release the video" she added.
Seven Henrico Sheriff's deputies were charged on Tuesday with second-degree murder in the March 6 death of Otieno, who died of asphyxiation, according to the state medical examiner's preliminary cause of death.
The deputies charged in the incident are Jermaine Branch, 45; Bradley Disse, 43; Randy Boyer, 57; Dwayne Bramble, 37; Tabitha Levere, 50; Brandon Rodgers, 48; and Kaiyell Sanders, 30.
During the first court hearings Tuesday for the seven accused deputies, Baskervill said the officers held down Otieno for 12 minutes while he was shackled and handcuffed, eventually "smothering him to death." She said he was asphyxiated from the weight of the officers laying on top of him, which included knees that were pressed "fiercely" into parts of his body.
On Tuesday, two of the deputies were released on $15,000 and $10,000 bond, respectively, after their attorneys successfully argued for their release.
Three others were appointed attorneys by Dinwiddie Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr. after he questioned them about their finances and determined they could not afford to hire counsel. Two other deputies indicated they were in the process of hiring attorneys.
Because the case has unfolded publicly in recent days, the deputies have not yet had an opportunity through attorneys to present their view of what transpired at Central State Hospital. The attorneys for the deputies who were granted bond cited their clients' unblemished records and years of experience and service.
Attorney Edward Nickel, who is representing Deputy Bradley Disse, told the court that his client has been employed 20 years with the sheriff's office and has an exemplary record. Nickel said Disse received an exemplary service award a week before the Central State Hospital incident.
Mark Bowes (804) 649-6450
@RTDMarkBowes on Twitter