7 Virginia sheriff’s deputies charged with 2nd-degree murder in death of man in custody
(CNN) — Seven central Virginia sheriff’s deputies were arrested and charged with second-degree murder Tuesday after a man in their custody died shortly after they took him from county jail to a state mental health facility, authorities say.
Irvo Otieno, 28, died on March 6 during the intake process to the facility, according to a statement from Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill.
State police investigators were told Otieno had become “combative” during the admission process and was “physically restrained,” the prosecutor said. His body was taken to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond for an autopsy.
In court Wednesday, Baskervill said prosecutors have watched a 12-minute video of the encounter that showed “deliberate and cruel treatment,” according to CNN affiliate WTVR. The affiliate was in court for the hearing; there were no cameras allowed.
She further said the video showed Otieno was smothered to death by the weight of seven deputies on top of him, according to WTVR.
An attorney for the family noted the “brutal nature” of his death in a statement.
“The family is grief stricken after learning of the brutal nature of Ivor’s death and his inhumane treatment in the hours preceding his death,” Mark Krudys, the attorney for Otieno’s family, told CNN. “The public, and experienced mental-health professionals alike, will be deeply disturbed when the facts of this case are fully made known.”
The case comes as law enforcement use of force has been under scrutiny nationwide.
The Henrico County deputies turned themselves in to state police Tuesday and are on administrative leave as investigations by their agency and state police continue, county Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement.
“The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost,” Gregory said. “This loss is felt by not only those close to him but our entire community.”
The seven deputies who were charged were identified in Baskervill’s release as Randy Joseph Boyer, 57, of Henrico; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37, of Sandston; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45, of Henrico; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43, of Henrico; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50, of Henrico; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48, of Henrico; and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30, of North Chesterfield.
Dinwiddie County Court records show that the deputies were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning for an appointed counsel hearing. At least two have bonded out, according to state court records.
All seven are slotted to appear before a grand jury on March 21, court records show.
CNN has sought comment from the deputies. The Henrico Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, the local police union, issued a statement on Facebook saying they “stand behind” the deputies.
“Policing in America today is difficult, made even more so by the possibility of being criminally charged while performing their duty,” the group said. “The death of Mr. Otierno was tragic, and we express our condolences to his family. We also stand behind the seven accused deputies now charged with murder by the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill.”
What we know about his death
Otieno’s interactions with law enforcement began March 3, according to authorities.
That morning, Henrico Police responded to a report of a possible burglary and encountered Otieno, police said in a news release on March 10. Police officers — with the county’s Crisis Intervention Team — put him under an emergency custody order due to their interactions with and observations of him, police said.
According to Virginia law, a person can be placed under an emergency custody order when there is reason to believe they could hurt themselves or others as a result of mental illness.
Otieno was taken for evaluation to a local hospital, where he became “physically assaultive towards officers,” police said. He was held on three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism, police said.
Otieno was then transferred to the Henrico County Jail West.
Then around 4 p.m. on March 6, Otieno was taken to be admitted to Central State Hospital, a state-run mental health facility south of Richmond, by the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office, according to the commonwealth attorney’s office. It’s not clear why deputies transferred Otieno.
During the intake process, Otieno became “combative” and was “physically restrained,” the attorney’s office said, citing what state police investigators were told. He died at the hospital “during the intake process,” the office said.
Virginia State Police were called to investigate his death at 7:28 p.m., the office said.
The cause of Otieno’s death has not been released, Baskervill told CNN in an email. CNN has sought comment from the Richmond medical examiner’s office and Central State Hospital.