New Telegraph

Video shows police piling on man before custody death


Prosecutors in the US state of Virginia have released video footage that shows the final moments of a patient who died in custody in a mental hospital.

The clip shows Irvo Otieno was pinned to the ground by police and hospital staff on March 6 while being taken from a jail to the mental facility, reports the BBC.

Seven sheriff deputies and three medical staff are charged with second-degree murder in the black man’s death.

A grand jury on Tuesday indicted the 10 people accused in the case.

The prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, released video of the incident to the public on Tuesday.

The footage is from surveillance cameras at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia.

Otieno was initially arrested on March 3 as the suspect in a possible burglary, a police news release said.

He was placed under an emergency custody order, used when it is believed that a person could harm themselves or others as a result of mental illness.

The clip, which has no sound, shows 28-year-old Otieno, who emigrated to the United States from Kenya when he was four, being dragged into a hospital admissions room in handcuffs and leg irons by several deputy sheriffs, with medical staff following behind.

It shows the sheriffs pinning Otieno down while medical staff look on, before some move to help the deputies. At least eight people are seen piling on top of Otieno at one point, some holding down his legs, while others hold his upper body.

Later in the video, as many as 10 deputy sheriffs and medical staff are seen holding down a shirtless Otieno – who is still in handcuffs and leg irons – on the floor.

The video shows he was held down for 11 minutes.

The deputies and medical staff then pull back as Otieno lies motionless. Medical staff in the room are then seen administering emergency aid.

At a news conference on Tuesday after the video was released, Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said the indictments were “just a beginning step” towards justice.

An attorney for Otieno’s family, Ben Crump, said the video showed that when Otieno needed a “helping hand”, he instead got “an overdose of excessive force”.

Audio of the 911 call placed by hospital staff as others attempt to resuscitate Otieno was also released.

In it, a hospital staff member can be heard saying that Mr Otieno was being given CPR, and that he is “very aggressive”.

The dispatcher then asks for a clarification: “I’m sorry, is the patient aggressive or is he not breathing?”

“He used to be aggressive, right, so they’re trying to put him in a restraint then eventually he is no longer breathing,” the hospital staff member says.

Prosecutors have said a preliminary post-mortem examination indicated that Otieno died from asphyxia.

Otieno’s family supported the public release of the video, but lawyers for the deputies and medical staff facing charges in relation to the incident had pushed back, arguing it could hinder a fair trial.

The seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing. Two have been released on bond, while the others remain in custody.

The three hospital workers were transported to jail, prosecutors said, where they are being held without bond.

Prosecutors said they are considering additional charges in relation to Otieno’s death.

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