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Video of Irvo Otieno's death released by Virginia prosecutors

Attorneys for the family described the video as 12 agonizing minutes of deputies pushing down and smothering Otieno.
Posted at 8:49 PM, Mar 21, 2023

The highly anticipated video of Irvo Otieno’s in-custody death has been released to the public in a court filing by prosecutors.  

The actions on the video lead to 10 second degree murder charges for local law enforcement and hospital staff. We want to warn you the video is graphic in nature and some may find it disturbing.  

The full surveillance video is more than an hour long but we’ve condensed it so show some of the most important moments.  

The video begins with six deputies ushering Otieno into an admissions room at Central State Hospital. Otieno’s family alleges he was pepper sprayed and beaten before arriving at the hospital. You can see Otieno is already handcuffed and shackled at his legs.  

Less than 10 minutes later, Otieno seemingly moves on the ground and several officers react — leading to eight deputies and medical staff pressing down on his body at one time. 

Throughout the video, Otieno is often covered by people in the room, making it hard to make out exactly what he is doing while on the ground.  

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Less than 30 minutes after Otieno enters the room, his body is limp. Officers and medical staff check for his pulse, apply chest compressions and try a defibrillator.   

In a court hearing last week, the Dinwiddie County Attorney made her case for murder.  

"He was not agitated or combative. He was held down prone on the ground for 12 minutes. So much so that they smothered him. They smothered him to death," said Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill. 

Attorneys for two of the defendants filed a motion to block the release of the video to the public before it was obtained in a court filing.  

"I'm disappointed. I think that makes a jury pool and those who see it far more difficult. I think, those who are in the public, it's going to be more difficult to find a jury that has not been tainted," said Caleb Kershner, the attorney for Randy Joseph Boyer.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Otieno’s family held a press conference in reaction to the video being released. 

Crump also compared Otieno’s death to George Floyd who suffocated on the ground while being restrained by police officers.  

Otieno’s family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis when he was taken into custody — which has proven to be dangerous in the past.  

"Having a mental illness should not be a death sentence in this country," said Bree Spencer, justice senior program director for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "You should be able to call for emergency services, you should be able to call for support and know that their safety on the other end of that call."

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter.  

That same study says at least one in four fatal police shootings involve a suspect dealing with mental illness.