Dinwiddie, VA – Seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies are facing a second-degree murder charge after a combative inmate died while in custody earlier this month.
Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill alleged in court on March 15 that security footage showed the deputies holding 28-year-old Irvo Otieno down on the ground inside Central State Hospital for 12 minutes prior to his death on March 6, WRIC reported.
Otieno was handcuffed at the time, according to the prosecutor, and the deputies also allegedly knelt on his chest during the struggle.
According to Baskerville, the medical examiner has preliminary determined Otieno died of asphyxiation and believes his death was a homicide, WRIC reported.
Baskerville said another video from the Henrico County Jail showed three deputies deploying pepper spray inside Otieno’s cell and striking him in the torso.
The prosecutor alleged during Wednesday’s hearing that deputies washed the handcuffs they’d used to restrain Otieno and placed them inside a patrol car after his death, WRIC reported.
She further claimed deputies waited more than three hours before they contacted the Virginia State Police (VSP) to investigate the case.
The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (VDBHDS) has refused to release the footage from inside Central State Hospital due to the ongoing investigation, WRIC reported.
“The requested records constitute both criminal investigative files relating to an ongoing criminal investigation and health records and thus, are being withheld from mandatory disclosure,” the VDBHDS said.
The series of events preceding Otieno’s death began on March 3, when the Henrico County Police Division (HCPD) received a report of a possible burglary, WRC reported.
Deputies responded to the scene and made contact with Otieno.
“Based on their interaction and observation of Otieno, HCPD officers placed him under an emergency custody order,” the HCPD said in a press release on March 10. “Members of Henrico County’s Crisis Intervention Team were on scene to assist the officers.”
Otieno was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
While at the hospital, the suspect allegedly “became physically assaultive towards the officers” and was subsequently arrested and transported to the Henrico County Jail West Warrant Services Unit on charges of disorderly conduct in a hospital, vandalism, and three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, the HCPD said.
The jail facility is managed by the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).
Baskervill said HCSO deputies transported Otieno to Central State Hospital shortly before 4 p.m. on March 6, WRC reported.
Deputies said Otieno became “combative during the admission process” at the state-run psychiatric facility, according to the prosecutor.
Baskervill said deputies “physically restrained” Otieno before his death, CNN reported.
The VSP was called to investigate the inmate’s death at 7:28 p.m.
Baskerville announced the charges against the seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies on March 14.
Mugshots released of 7 Henrico deputies charged with murder. 🍎 pic.twitter.com/H0ybmskeqn
— Philander Wicks 🇺🇸 (@philanderwicks) March 14, 2023
They have been identified as 30-year-old Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 48-year-old Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 50-year-old Tabitha Renee Levere, 43-year-old Bradley Thomas Disse, 45-year-old Jermaine Lavar Branch, 37-year-old Dwayne Alan Bramble, and 57-year-old Randy Joseph Boyer, WRIC reported.
They all turned themselves in to VSP on Tuesday and have been placed on paid administrative leave while investigations into the incident are pending, according to CNN.
Deputy Branch, who was represented by counsel during his initial court appearance on Wednesday, was granted a $15,000 bond over the arguments of prosecutors.
The other six deputies’ bond hearings were set for March 21, WRIC reported.
The Henrico Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 4 released a statement in support of the deputies on Tuesday.
“Policing in America today is difficult, made even more so by the possibility of being criminally charged while performing their duty,” the FOP 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.”
The FOP noted that few details about the case have been released by prosecutors.
They further pointed out that the seven deputies “were not charged using warrants or indictments, but through a rarely-used process called an ‘information’ that allows for little outside scrutiny from impartial judges or magistrates.”
“From news reports it appears that the Virginia State Police have not completed their investigation of the death, and the Medical Examiner has not released a cause or manner of death,” the organization added. “With these things in mind, and cognizant of every accused’s presumption of innocence, we support our Brothers and Sisters, and hope for a quick resolution that clears their names.”
Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory also released a statement after the deputies’ arrests.
“As Henrico County sheriff and on behalf of our entire office, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Irvo Otieno,” Sheriff Gregory wrote, according to WRIC. “The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost. This loss is felt by not only those close to him but our entire community.”
The sheriff confirmed that the deputies involved in the case have all been placed on administrative leave.
“As an office, we are cooperating fully with the investigation of the Virginia State Police. Separately, we are conducting our own independent review of this incident,” Sheriff Gregory said. “Public safety is what we stand for as a Sheriff’s Office. We will continue to maintain the highest professional standards in how we serve and protect those in our custody, the community-at-large and our staff.”