DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The family of Irvo Otieno held a news conference on Thursday to describe the video they had seen of seven Henrico deputies they say treated their kin with “brutality.”
The family was joined by their lawyers — Ben Crump and Mark Krudys — for the public appearance in Dinwiddie on Thursday, March 16.
The media event was held after the family and their counsel reviewed the video — described by the Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill in court on Wednesday — of the incident involving seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
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. They were all charged with second-degree murder after Otieno died in their custody.
“There is video footage of exactly what happened and he was not agitated and combative. He was held down on the ground, pinned on the ground for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged here,” Baskervill said during the court proceedings yesterday.
Cary Bowen, the attorney for Branch, said the use of force was justified and claimed that the charges were highly unusual. Bowen also claimed said that the Commonwealth had taken an “aggressive position.”
The medical examiner has now ruled Otieno’s death a homicide, saying he died of asphyxiation.
Around 12:30 p.m., Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor released her own statement:
“I want to assure the public that I am conducting a review of what happened in the Henrico jail on March 6, 2023, including studying the video evidence. This will be a thorough and comprehensive investigation of what occurred, and I will be releasing my findings upon its completion. I understand and share the public’s concerns and will do whatever I can to determine what occurred and how.”
Around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, second-degree murder charges were also brought against three employees of Central State Hospital.
Darian Blackwell, 23; Wavie Jones, 34; and Sadarius Williams, 27; have reportedly been transported to the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Brunswick County where they are being held without bond.
This makes a total of 10 people now charged with second-degree murder in connection with Otieno’s death.
The News Conference
Attorney Ben Crump began the news conference by announcing that the videos the family had reviewed would be made available to the public “at the appropriate time.”
“This was a mental health crisis,” Crump said. “His mother — even when they came that Friday — she told them about his mental health and that she believed that he was having a crisis … But they took him away from her and she couldn’t protect him anymore … She pleaded with them, ‘let me see my child, I can help the situation,” but they never let her see him. She never saw her son alive again.”
Mark Krudys followed Crump by describing evidence that they had gathered — not shown to the family — that had occurred at the jail prior to Otieno being taken to Central State Hospital.
“We shielded the family from the events that we saw before that which was … he’s naked in his cell. He’s being treated in a sub-human manner. The whole day he was there, no clothing being provided to him, feces on the floor,” Krudys said. “When the handcuffs are put on him, he is force-rushed and about five deputies get on him at that point. That continues the brutality that occurred.”
Otieno’s older brother, Leon, spoke next, pleading for Americans to recognize that mental illness is common, and it does not make his brother’s death justified.
“At what point do we stop preserving life? At what point do we consider mental illness a crime? Can someone explain to me why my brother’s not here right now? Can someone explain to me why my mother can’t sleep, can’t eat? We’re broken.” he questioned.
Otieno’s mother, Caroline, then told the story of Otieno’s life, beginning with their migration to the United States when he was four years old.
“Irvo is as American as apple pie. This is what he knows. This is home for him,” she said. “This was my baby. He cared for people. He cared that people were treated right. That was at the core of his upbringing in our home. He cared that people were treated equally.”
Krudys also explained that Otieno was being treated at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital when he was taken to the jail. Otieno’s mother said she was at the hospital when the doctor who had been treating her son came to her and explained that he had been taken off treatment and taken to the jail without medication.
“Before I left the hospital, I asked him, ‘Doctor, may I see my son? Doctor could you intervene for me to see my baby?'” she said. “He threw his hands up in desperation and told me, ‘It’s the police!'”
Krudys emphasized that Otieno had been asleep for 40 minutes and was “in a relaxed mode at that point.”
Crump and Krudys said that they hope the United States Department of Justice becomes involved because of the complicated nature of the alleged crimes and the multiple jurisdictions.
“Even though Ann [Baskervill] is an intelligent, gutsy prosecutor, she’s got those two jurisdictions,” Krudys said. “It’s a story. As you can see, it is a continuum of abuse that went on and it has to be fully addressed in that manner.”
This is a developing story, check back with 8News for updates.