The mother of a 28-year-old man who died in police custody says her son was tortured by the seven deputy sheriffs who have been charged with second-degree murder.
Irvo Otieno’s family said they had seen a 12-minute video of him being handcuffed, shackled and pinned to the ground with “the weight of seven individuals on his body” while being transferred from a jail to a state mental hospital in Virginia.
Three hospital employees have been charged in his death alongside seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies, who Mr Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said treated her son “worse than a dog”.
Speaking at a news conference after viewing the footage on Thursday, she said: “It was traumatic, it was disturbing. My son was tortured.
“He was murdered. They smothered the breath out of my baby. They murdered my baby.”
Mr Otieno died on 6 March after being transferred to Central State Hospital in Georgia from a local jail, where he had spent several days in custody following what his family’s attorneys described as a “mental health crisis”.
Henrico County Police said its officers initially encountered Mr Otieno while responding to reports of a burglary on 3 March, and that based on his behaviour, they took him to a local hospital for evaluation.
Police said he became “physically assaultive toward officers” who then arrested him and took him to a local jail, where family attorneys claim the 28-year-old was denied access to needed medications and subjected to brutality.
They added Mr Otieno was “almost lifeless” when the officers carried him to a vehicle to be transported to the state hospital, and that additional footage from the hospital showed a lack of urgency to help him after the deputies determined “that he was lifeless and not breathing”.
‘Twelve agonising minutes’
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd, is now working with Mr Otieno’s family.
He said: “It is truly shocking that nearly three years after the brutal killing of George Floyd by police, another family is grieving a loved one who allegedly died in nearly the exact same manner – being pinned down by police for 12 agonising minutes.”
Henrico County sheriff Alisa Gregory has said the deputies have been placed on administrative leave, with hearings set for next week, while the three hospital workers are being held without bond. Prosecutors have said additional charges and arrests are pending.