Prosecutors have released shocking video footage of the moment Virginia cops and hospital workers piled on top of Irvo Otieno at a state hospital before he suffocated to death.
The footage, filed in court and first published by The Washington Post, shows a large group of both Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and Central State Hospital medical workers holding down the 28-year-old Black man—already shackled and handcuffed—for roughly 11 minutes before his apparently lifeless body is released.
As he was pressed into the ground, other workers milled around, some with their hands on their hips. The video does not include audio.
“Mental illness should not be your ticket to death,” said Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, at a press conference on Thursday. “There was a chance to rescue him. There was a chance to stop what was going on.”
The video released on Monday afternoon showed sheriff’s deputies walking what seemed to be a calm Otieno into the hospital on March 6, according to reporting by The Washington Post.
There is a two minute period without video between 4:17 and 4:19 p.m., said the paper, after which deputies can be seen forcing Otieno forward and then down into a sitting position against what seems to be a chair.
But suddenly, a group of around 10 men and women begin to pile on top of the man—eventually holding him down against the ground and obscuring the camera’s view of Otieno.
When they finally release him 11 minutes later, Otieno’s body is limp.
According to the county prosecutor, the corner’s preliminary finding was that Otieno died of asphyxia —or “smothering,” as Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill reportedly said in court.
Police recordings also filed in court showed increasingly frantic 911 calls being made to dispatchers for help for Otieno, according to The Washington Post.
One call, made moments after the group released Otieno’s limp body, said there was an “emergency” and that the “very aggressive” patient was no longer breathing, and had no pulse.
“I’m sorry, is the patient aggressive or is he not breathing?” asked the dispatcher, according to The Washington Post.
Later, a staffer calls 911 again, stressing that they had an emergency twenty minutes ago. The dispatcher responds that there are medics on route.
After a back and forth, the frustrated worker says: “This is just totally unacceptable, and y’all know it, too,” according to the Post.
Workers appear to attempt to revive Otieno with chest compressions and a defibrillator machine, but he is eventually covered with a white sheet, according to the Post.
Since his death, seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Deputies and three hospital workers have been charged with second-degree murder—two of whom were fighting in court to keep the video from reaching the eyes of the public.
The deputies are Jermaine Branch, Randy Boyer, Bradley Disse, Tabitha Levere, Brandon Rodgers, Dwayne Bramble, and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders.
The Central State Hospital workers are Darian Blackwell, Wavie Jones, and Sadarius Williams.
Two deputies were still battling to keep the video out of the public’s eye on Monday after Baskervill announced she planned to release the video, arguing that the video could be an attempt by the prosecutor to influence potential jurors.
“We are concerned that this response was filed by the prosecution with the intention of making the information available to the media and public after having received a motion by the defense seeking to prevent just such a disclosure,” Douglas Ramseur, who represents Wavie Jones, told The Washington Post on Monday night. “We are considering all our legal remedies.”
Last week, Otieno’s family had forcefully called for the video to be made public after receiving a private viewing of the footage.
“What I saw today was heartbreaking, America,” said Ouko. “It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured.”
A grand jury hearing in Otieno’s case was scheduled for Tuesday morning.