DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Documents obtained by 8News through a legal information request revealed that all seven of the Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies charged with second-degree murder in connection with the in-custody death of Irvo Otieno, 28, received specialty training to address those in mental health crises.

Defense attorneys, law enforcement officials and loved ones have said that Otieno was in mental distress when he was transferred from Henrico Jail West to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County on March 6, where he later died.

But defense counsel for two of those deputies, Jermaine Branch and Dwayne Bramble, as well as a spokesperson with the nonprofit organization the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police are shedding new light on what that specialty training entailed.

“They don’t work in the cellblock areas,” attorney Cary Bowen, representing Deputy Branch told 8News on Monday. “They’re specifically trained to deal with this kind of situation, and, usually — they’re trained to do it. They talk it down. It goes down without violence; without physical resistance, and it looked like this gentleman was pretty far gone.

Documents from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office included a list of 551 officers — 234 of whom are no longer with the department — who received at least 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.

“Deputy sheriffs are forced and faced with challenges that most people would not want to face. We would not want to have to do what deputy sheriffs have to do every day,” attorney Russ Stone, representing Deputy Bramble, said. “But these deputies engaged in their duties with professionalism and care, based on their training and knowledge in a difficult and challenging situation.”

The log of training hours completed from the sheriff’s office showed the following hours completed and on what date:

  • Bradley Disse
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 06/01/2009
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – 06/15/2021
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – 03/01/2017
    • CIT TTT – N/A
  • Brandon Rodgers
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 05/27/2022
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT TTT – N/A
  • Jermaine Branch
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 10/01/2008 (done in Hampton)
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – 04/05/2017
    • CIT TTT – 03/01/2009
  • Kaiyell Sanders
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 08/13/2021
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT TTT – N/A
  • Randy Boyer
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 09/01/2016
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – 11/19/2019
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT TTT – N/A
  • Dwayne Bramble
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 09/01/2013
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – 12/05/2017
    • CIT TTT – 07/15/2022
  • Tabitha Levere
    • 40 Hour CIT Training – 07/01/2013
    • CIT Refresher (4 Hours) – N/A
    • CIT Refresher (8 Hours) – 10/11/2017
    • CIT TTT – 03/13/2020 (done at CVACIT Henrico)

Dana Schrad with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said Tuesday that it was too soon to determine whether all principles of CIT training were followed in all aspects of authorities’ interactions with Otieno before his death.

“I don’t think I’m in a position where — any of us is in a position — to sort of judge whether or not the CIT training failed these deputies or failed the officers that were at the mental health facility,” she said. “Every situation is unique, and you learn from each different encounter. Unfortunately, you do have situations like this one that ended tragically.”

According to CIT training information from the Virginia CIT Coalition, “The training is designed to educate and prepare police officers who come into contact with people in crisis, to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and to respond effectively and appropriately to the individual.”

Schrad added that CIT curriculum is ever-changing.

“The trained CIT Officer is skilled at recognizing and de-escalating crises involving people with acute episodes of mental illness, while bringing an element of understanding and compassion to these difficult situations,” training documents said. “The goal of the CIT program is to reduce unnecessary restraint and incarceration of people with mental illness and to provide individuals with appropriate treatment in the community.”

But in the days leading up to Otieno’s death in custody, authorities said that Henrico police were called to the 28-year-old’s neighborhood for calls that would be reclassified as mental-health-related. On March 3, according to a release from the Henrico County Police Division (HCPD), Otieno was taken to Parham Doctors’ Hospital for treatment. Bowen told 8News on Monday that medical personnel there refused to treat Otieno because he was combative, but an HCA Healthcare spokesperson would not confirm this information. From the hospital, Otieno was taken to Henrico Jail West; an HCPD spokesperson said that he “became physically assaultive towards officers.”

On March 6, Otieno was transferred to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County in mental distress. His family said that, while at the jail, he was denied much-needed medication.

“We hope that we can learn more from that particular situation,” Schrad said. “But it’s it’s hard to tell right now until more investigation is done, whether or not all the CIT principles were followed in every aspect of this case.”

Schrad said that training standards come from both the state and federal level, and are adopted by both police departments and sheriff’s offices. She also noted that, in more recent years, CIT training has been provided earlier in law enforcement officers’ careers, rather than later, as was previously done.

“CIT training is widely available to all of our folks in the public safety arena, and we encourage all of our agencies to take advantage of it and utilize it,” she said. “It helps make them better officers and it helps lead to safer encounters between law enforcement and someone in a mental health crisis.”