DINWIDDIE, Va. — A local Virginia prosecutor said Monday she is asking the Department of Justice to get involved in the case of seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers accused of killing Irvo Otieno last month.
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Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in an email to The Progress-Index, part of the USA TODAY Network, that she will be in contact with the Justice Department this week “to see what I can do” to get them on board.
“The feds, and perhaps only the feds, have enough resources to give this case what it deserves at every stage and with every issue,” Baskervill said.
Otieno, 28, died on March 6 in an admissions area of Central State Hospital where he had been taken by seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies. Surveillance video from the admissions area showed the deputies and three hospital security guards restraining Otieno with their bodies for around 12 minutes after the deputies claimed he had become combative with them.
Personnel who realized Otieno appeared limp and lifeless eventually began resuscitation efforts, the video showed. Otieno’s family and their attorneys have said Otieno struggled with mental illness and was having a mental health crisis while he was in custody.
Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and others spoke at Otieno’s funeral, calling for mental health and policing reforms.
IRVO OTIENO AND MENTAL HEALTH REFORM: Will Irvo Otieno’s death spark national reform on mental health? Virginia community hopes so.
‘WE WILL STAND FOR YOU’: Hundreds of mourners gather to remember Irvo Otieno.
Irvo Otieno’s death ruled as homicide
The state medical examiner’s office released the official cause of Otieno’s death on Monday and ruled his death as a homicide.
The medical examiner’s office said Otieno died of “positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints.”.
Each of the deputies and security guards was indicted last month on charges of second-degree murder. All defendants have been granted bond and court records show pre-trial hearings in April or May.
In a statement released by their offices, Otieno family co-counsels Ben Crump and Mark Krudys said the ruling “corroborates what the world witnessed in the video.”.
“In a chilling parallel to George Floyd’s killing, Irvo was held down and excessively restrained to death, when he should have been provided medical help and compassion,” the attorneys said. “It is tragic that yet another life has been lost to this malicious and deadly restraint technique.”.
The suspects are deputies Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Tabitha Rene Levere, 50; Brandon Edward Rodgers, 48; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30; and hospital employees Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg, Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield, and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.