7 Deputies, 3 Hospital Guards Charged With Murder in Death of Virginia Man Having Mental Health Crisis

Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies and three hospital security guards have been charged with second degree murder in the death of a 28-year-old man in the thralls of a mental health crisis earlier this month.

Irvo (pronounced EYE vo) Otieno died from asphyxiation on March 6 when the deputies and security guards piled on top of him, holding him down for 12 minutes although he was in handcuffs and leg shackles when he allegedly became combative while being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Petersburg.

Prosecutors announced the charges against the Henrico County deputies on Tuesday and the Central State Hospital security guards on Thursday, after Virginia State Police completed their investigation.

Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday that she planned to release a video of the incident to the public next week. Otieno’s family viewed the video this week.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Baskervill said, according to CNN.

She said the video shows the security guards at first standing by while the deputies piled onto Otieno before they, too, joined the pile on.

The local law enforcement union said they “stand behind” the deputies.

According to the Times-Dispatch, Otieno’s death came during an extended mental health crisis that began on March 2 when a neighbor called 911, concerned about Otieno’s behavior. The call was ultimately reclassified as a mental health problem after deputies spoke with him and a family member.

The following day, Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, contacted his psychiatrist to seek help to get him to a hospital. But when deputies arrive at the home again, they were responding to another call from a neighbor about a burglary — Otieno had reportedly dragged a light fixture from the neighbor’s yard — but Ouko said she had spoken with the neighbor, explaining the situation, and believed the matter to be resolved.

It seems not be be resolved, however, when 10 to 12 deputies arrive with stun guns drawn. Ouko said she asked them to put them away, and her son was put under an emergency protective order. They handcuffed him and led him to a cruiser, but he refused to get in, and an ambulance was called. The ambulance took him to Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

At the hospital, the officers said Otieno became aggressive, and  they took him to jail, charged with assault and battery of an officer, disorderly conduct, and destruction of property. Otieno remained in jail for the weekend — without his medications — and was brought to court on the morning of March 6. Ouko attended the hearing and told the judge her son needs psychiatric help. She asked him not to send him to Central State, but the judge denied bond and sent him to the hospital anyway.

He arrived just before 4 p.m. with the Henrico deputies, and he was dead by 4:30. The State Medical Examiner’s Office initially said only that he “fell unconscious” and could not be revived. Three hours later, Virginia State Police were called in to investigate.

The deputies arrested were Bradley Disse, 43; Jermaine Branch, 45; Randy Boyer, 57; Dwayne Bramble, 37; Brandon Rodgers, 48; Tabitha Levere, 50; and Kaiyell Sanders, 30. Disse and Branch have been released on $10,000 and $15,000 bonds, respectively, while Boyer, Bramble, and Rodgers have bond hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Levere and Sanders have a court appearance on Wednesday about their representation.

Hospital employees Darian M. Blackwell, 23; Wavie L. Jones, 34; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, are being held without bail until their bond hearings on Tuesday.

Baskervill said she plans to seek indictments against all 10 defendants on second-degree murder when the grand jury convenes Tuesday.

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[Featured image: Irvo Otieno/Ben Crump Law]