Seven sheriff’s deputies in Virginia have been charged with murder after they allegedly smothered a young Black man in the midst of a mental health crisis last week.
While the commonwealth has not yet released an official cause of death, Irvo N. Otieno was being admitted to Central State Hospital by Henrico County Sheriff’s Office deputies when he died of asphyxiation, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“The family is deeply disturbed by how Irvo was treated and when the full story comes out, the public will be shocked at the totality of the circumstances and the abuse that Irvo underwent,” family attorney Mark Krudys told the Times-Dispatch on Tuesday.
The deputies charged are: Randy Boyer; Dwayne Bramble; Jermaine Branch; Bradley Disse; Tabitha Levere; Brandon Rodgers, and Kaiyelle Sanders. They’ve all been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 28-year-old Otieno of Henrico County, Virginia.
“Randy Joseph Boyer did, as a principal in the first or second degree, feloniously and unlawfully kill and murder Irvo Otenio in the second degree,” reads one charging document obtained by the Times-Dispatch.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Otieno, an athlete and honor student, began to suffer from mental health issues when he was a college student in California. He was soon diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorder, according to his family’s account to the Times-Dispatch. Family also told the paper that Otieno’s mother had called a doctor the day of her son’s arrest, hoping to find him help during an especially severe mental health episode.
But when local Henrico county police appeared at the home, they were not initially there to help. While Ouko initially assumed they were responding to her pleas, instead she found out he was a suspect in a burglary.
They eventually called in help to transport him to a hospital, where Otieno apparently “became physically aggressive towards officers”, according to police, after which he was charged with three counts of assault and booked into jail instead.
There, his mother told the Times-Dispatch, he did not receive medication. Two days later, he was transported to Central State Hospital, where he died on March 6—allegedly at the hands of the sheriff’s office.
While details on Otieno’s death and the sheriff’s department’s involvement are still lacking, on Tuesday multiple deputies were taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder.
They have been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement released by Henrico County Sheriff Alisa A Gregory, who also wrote they are “cooperating fully” with the investigation.
“The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost,” read the statement. “This loss is felt by not only those close to him but our entire community.”
It is unclear whether the leave is paid.
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