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Struggle before patient dies recorded on Virginia video

by DENISE LAVOIE and SARAH RANKIN The Associated Press | March 22, 2023 at 4:35 a.m.
Caroline Ouko, center left, mother of Irvo Otieno, speaks of her son with attorney Mark Krudys, left, her older son, Leon Ochieng, center right, and attorney Ben Crump, right, at First Baptist Church of South Richmond, Richmond, Va., on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- A large group of sheriff's deputies and employees of a Virginia mental hospital pinned patient Irvo Otieno to the floor earlier this month until he was motionless and limp, then began unsuccessful resuscitation efforts, newly obtained surveillance video shows.

The footage obtained Tuesday, which has no audio, shows various members of the group attempting to restrain a handcuffed and shackled Otieno for about 20 minutes after he's led into a room at Central State Hospital, where he was going to be admitted March 6. For most of that duration, the 28-year-old Black man is on the floor being held down by a fluctuating group that at one point appeared to reach 10 people.

Seven deputies and three hospital workers have been charged with second-degree murder in Otieno's death. Otenio's family said he was brutally mistreated, both at the state hospital and while in law enforcement custody in the preceding days. Attorneys for many of the defendants have said they will vigorously fight the charges.

Relatives of Otieno were shown video from the hospital last week by a prosecutor, Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill, who said that she planned to publicly release it Tuesday.

Attorneys for at least two of the defendants sought to block the video's release, arguing that it could hinder a fair trial. The Associated Press obtained it and other footage Tuesday through a link included in a public court filing made by Baskervill.

According to timestamps in the footage, which was first reported by The Washington Post, an SUV carrying Otieno arrived at the hospital just before 4 p.m. By 4:19 p.m., a different camera shows him being forcibly led into a room with tables and chairs. He is quickly hauled toward a seat before eventually slumping to the floor, initially in a seated position then lying flat.

As time passes, an increasing number of workers hold him down as he appears to start to move on the floor. Otieno's shirtless body is obscured at times by those restraining him or standing in front of the camera.

"He certainly did not deserve to be smothered to death, which is what happened," Baskervill said in court Tuesday. The workers were holding him down "from his braids down to his toes," she said.

By the 4:39 p.m. timestamp, someone is taking Otieno's pulse and he appears unresponsive. Soon after, as Otieno's body lies still, someone appears to administer two injections. By 4:42 p.m., CPR appears to be underway. Life-saving efforts seem to go on for nearly an hour. At 5:48 p.m., Otieno's body is draped with a white sheet.

Final autopsy findings have not yet been released, though Baskervill has said multiple times that Otieno died of asphyxiation. Defense attorneys have raised the possibility that the injections contributed to his death, though Baskervill disputed that Tuesday, saying he was already dead when the shots were administered.

Baskervill's filing also included a link to audio from Dinwiddie County 911 calls. In one, a caller from the hospital requests an EMS team, saying Otieno, who had been "very aggressive," stopped breathing during attempts to restrain him. Subsequent calls reflected impatience by hospital callers about the length of time that had passed without an EMS crew's arrival.

On Tuesday, a grand jury in Dinwiddie County signed off on second-degree murder charges for all 10 defendants.

"Those 10 monsters, those 10 criminals, I was happy to hear that they were indicted. And that is just the beginning step," Otieno's mother, Caroline Ouko, said at a news conference Tuesday evening, vowing to fight for justice for her son.

In court, a judge also granted bond for two of the deputies and one hospital employee after hearing arguments from Baskervill and their defense attorneys.

Information for this article was contributed by Ben Finley of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Struggle before patient dies recorded on Virginia video


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