CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Civil rights attorneys for the family of a Henrico County man who died in the custody of sheriff’s deputies earlier this month said there is additional evidence in the cases against 10 individuals charged with murder that has not yet been released to the public.
In the weeks since 28-year-old Irvo Otieno’s March 6 death at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, surveillance video from Henrico Jail West — where Otieno was in custody — and from the hospital — where he was transferred the day of his death — have been released. Defense attorneys for the seven Henrico Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital workers facing second-degree murder charges said that the video does not show the full story. There is no audio in the video, for example.
“We saw the video when we met with the [Dinwiddie County] Commonwealth’s Attorney of what was occurring inside the cell. That has not been made public yet,” local civil rights attorney Mark Krudys said, speaking with reporters after Otieno’s funeral on Wednesday at a church in Chesterfield County. “What we did see was that Irvo is continuously being pulled through what’s called the ‘chuck hole’ in the door, and we could not understand what was going on.”
Surveillance video from Henrico Jail West that was released showed the actions of sheriff’s deputies from behind, as the camera was positioned in the hallway outside Otieno’s cell.
“Why that was occurring, we have no understanding,” Krudys said.
Civil rights attorneys for the Otieno family, including Krudys and Ben Crump, also noted the lack of body-worn camera video in this case. 8News requested body-worn camera video from the Henrico Sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene but was told that such video does not exist because the deputies do not wear body cameras.
“Medical people are there. They should be taking contemporaneous notes in connection with what went on and what they saw around them. That should be seen, and we’ll be able to read that,” Krudys said Wednesday. “Also, these people should be interviewed in the near future. They should have been interviewed by the Virginia State Police. But we don’t know of any type of audio at this point.”
However, Krudys did say that his legal team has requested access to body-worn camera video from Henrico Police officers, who were called to Otieno’s neighborhood on March 2 and March 3.
“What we do know is that CIT [Crisis Intervention Team] officers came to the scene. Those were officers that were, apparently, better trained at dealing with mental health circumstances,” Krudys said. “The sheriff says that there was an emergency order that was in place. That meant that there were eight hours that would elapse before that would expire. We still do not understand how Irvo goes from that hospital over to the jail.”
There has also been conflicting information about to which hospital Otieno was taken and by whom. Authorities initially said that he was brought to Parham Doctor’s Hospital by Henrico Police officers. But family members have said that they personally brought Otieno to Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. 8News reached out to authorities in Henrico County and Crump’s legal team for clarification, but has not gotten a response.
During and after Wednesday’s funeral, civil rights attorneys for Otieno’s family further issued a call to action.
“We got many calls after the video was released, asking, ‘Do they have mental health courts in the State of Virginia?'” Crump said. “What you don’t want is people having [a] mental [illness] crisis to be treated like criminals and locked away in cages when they’ve committed no crime; they just have a mental health illness, and so, that was what we were calling for. Treat mental health issues like medical issues, not criminal issues.”
Authorities said that, while at the hospital’s crisis receiving center on March 3, Otieno “became physically assaultive towards officers.” Court records showed that he was charged with disorderly conduct on hospital grounds, three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, and destruction of property with intent in an amount less than $1,000.
“That could be a basis of “Irvo’s Law” — to look into the possibilities of having a mental health court, instead of just [sending] them to the criminal court and convicting them of trumped up charges,” Crump said. “He should have stayed in a clinical setting, receiving the care that he needed.”