DINWIDDIE, Va. (WRIC) — Irvo Otieno’s family spoke out for the first time at a press conference in Dinwiddie on Thursday, and his family and their lawyers are now pushing for the release of the hospital surveillance footage from that deadly night.
At Thursday’s press conference, his family and their lawyer Ben Crump talked about the video and the acts of violence that were inflicted on Otieno in the moments leading up to his death.
“Words can’t describe what I saw today,” Leon Ochieng, Otieno’s brother, said.
Otieno’s mother Caroline Ouko described the video and the treatment of her son by the Henrico deputies now being charged in his death in one word — torture. She says wouldn’t wish what she saw on anyone.
“My son was treated like a dog,” Ouko said. “Worse than a dog.”
Crump is one of the few people who have seen the video.
“We kept making notes during the video,” Crump said. “You could see one person take their knee off and another person put their knee back on.”
Investigating authorities have not released the video to the public yet, and it is still unknown when it will be released. But Mark Krudys, the family’s other lawyer, and the Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill allege that in the video, Otieno is pinned to the ground for 12 minutes.
“When you see that video you will be shocked,” Mark Krudys, the family’s other lawyer, said. “The force of them, you can see that they’re putting their back into it. Every single part of his body is being pushed down with absolute brutality. You cannot even see his image many times.”
Seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees have now been charged with second-degree murder in connection to Otieno’s death.
The family and their lawyers say mental health is at the center of the tragedy.
“This is becoming a pattern in America we treat people who have mental health issues like hardened criminals,” Crump said. “It’s not right.”
According to Otieno’s mother, her son has had mental health issues since the end of high school, and he sometimes would go a long time with no episodes. That was until two weeks ago, when police were called on March 2 after a neighbor was concerned about Otieno’s behavior.
“It was a mental health distress moment for Irvo,” Ouko said.
She says Otieno previously had mental health issues that led him to be hospitalized, but nothing like this.
“During the entire time he was at the jail we know that there was no medicine provided to him at that time,” Krudys said. “And if you know about mental health issues, he’s decompensating. So they’re creating the very events that would occur there afterward.”
The families’ attorneys said that they hope the Department of Justice becomes involved in the case because of the complicated nature of the alleged crimes and the multiple jurisdictions involved.