DINWIDDIE, Va. (WRIC) — In the first court appearance of seven Henrico sheriff’s deputies accused of murdering a prisoner last week, the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney alleged that video evidence shows that seven deputies held Irvo Otieno down for 12 minutes as he lay, handcuffed, on the floor of Central State Hospital.
Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30; appeared in Dinwiddie County Circuit Court via video chat Wednesday morning. The defendants are all deputies with the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office and were charged Tuesday with second-degree murder after Otieno died in their custody.
The prosecutor also said in court that separate video from the Henrico jail shows three deputies pepper-spraying Otieno in his cell and punching him in the torso.
8News requested access to the video from Central State Hospital through a Freedom of Information Act request and was denied. The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services declined the request saying, “The requested records constitute both criminal investigative files relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and health records and thus, are being withheld from mandatory disclosure.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney motioned to delay a bond hearing for several of the defendants. Many were assigned court-appointed counsel at Wednesday’s hearing, but even in the case of Jermaine Branch, who was represented by counsel at the hearing, the prosecutor asked to delay the bond determination because the accelerated nature of the charging decision had not allowed her office time to properly contact the victim’s family.
Among the bombshell allegations the prosecution made during the hearing was the claim that deputies washed the handcuffs used to restrain Otieno, returned them to their police cruiser and did not call Virginia State Police — now the lead investigators in the case — until 3 and a half hours after Otieno’s death.
Despite the strenuous arguments of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the judge ultimately granted Branch a $15,000 bond, while setting a bond hearing for those still awaiting representation for March 21.
Branch’s defense attorney Carey Bowen argued that the officers struggled to contain Otieno, thereby justifying the seven deputies’ use of force, which allegedly included kneeling on Otieno’s chest.
Bowen pointed to the victim’s mental health issues and claimed that deputies were aware of these issues.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney countered that the timeline of the deputies’ actions — which allegedly included waiting for 14 minutes in the hospital parking lot before taking Otieno in — demonstrated their deliberate cruelty towards him.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney told 8News that the medical examiner has made a preliminary determination that the cause of Otieno’s death was asphyxiation, and the manner was homicide. 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone noted Tuesday that charges against jail staff for the death of an inmate are highly unusual.
Video obtained by the Commonwealth’s Attorney from Central State Hospital and the Henrico jail — but not yet shown in court — will play a key role in the case.