RICHMOND, Va. – Seven Virginia sheriff’s office employees have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a 28-year-old man at a state mental hospital last week, a local prosecutor said Tuesday.
Henrico County Sheriff’s Office personnel took the victim, Irvo Otieno, to Central State Hospital on March 6 to admit him as a patient, according to the prosecutor, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill. Otieno, who was physically restrained, died during the intake process, Baskervill said in a statement.
“Mr. Otieno’s family was notified by my office this morning of these charges and I will continue to work with and for his family in relation to pursuing this case to its fullest extent,” Baskervill said.
Baskervill’s statement did not state a cause of death but said Otieno’s body had been taken to a medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.
Otieno’s family has previously raised concerns about his treatment, with his mother telling the Richmond Times-Dispatch for a story published Saturday that “something went wrong” while he was in the government’s custody.
“The family is grief stricken after learning of the brutal nature of Ivor’s death and his inhumane treatment in the hours preceding his death. The public, and experienced mental health professionals alike, will be appalled when the facts of this case are fully disclosed,” Mark Krudys, an attorney for the family, said.
Otieno, whose family is from Kenya, was a deeply loved and well-regarded young man, an aspiring musician who had been a well-known high school athlete in the area, Krudys said.
Henrico County Police have previously said in a news release that officers responding to a report of a possible burglary March 3 identified Otieno as a potential suspect. Based on their interaction with and observations of Otieno, officers put him under an emergency custody order. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation, the news release issued Friday said.
At the hospital, Otieno “became physically assaultive toward officers, who arrested him” and took him to a local jail, which is managed by the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, where he was served with several charges.
Baskervill’s statement said Henrico sheriff’s office employees took him to Central State Hospital, located south of Richmond, just before 4 p.m. on March 6 to be admitted. Around 7:30 p.m., state police were called to investigate his death.
State police investigators were told Otieno had “become combative during the admission process,” Baskervill’s statement said.
Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller confirmed Tuesday that the agency’s investigation into the matter remains ongoing. She said state police have obtained hospital security footage as part of their criminal investigative file. There are no immediate plans to release it, she said.
The seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Office employees turned themselves in Tuesday morning and were taken to a regional jail, where they are being held without bond, Baskervill said. Her statement did not specify their rank.
Court records do not list defense attorneys for any of the seven defendants. The records show hearings scheduled in their cases Wednesday morning dealing with the appointment of counsel.
Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement that her office was cooperating fully with state police and conducting its own internal review of the incident. She said seven deputies “who were transferring custody of Mr. Otieno” had been placed on administrative leave.
“As Henrico County sheriff and on behalf of our entire office, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Irvo Otieno,” Gregory said.
The body of Otieno was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond for examination and an autopsy, Baskevill’s statement said. An administrator at that office referred questions from the AP to Geller, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.