By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) -Seven sheriffs deputies of Henrico County, Virginia, have been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of a suspect who was being transported to a mental health facility from jail.
Irvo Otieno, 28, died on March 6 as he was being admitted to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in a written statement. Petersburg is in central Virginia, roughly 25 miles (40 km) south of Richmond.
“Mr. Otieno’s family was notified by my office this morning of these charges and I will continue to work with and for his family in relation to pursuing this case to its fullest extent,” Cabell Baskervill said.
Medical examiners have not released a cause of death for Otieno. Prosecutors say they were told Otieno was restrained during the intake process because he was being “combative.”
The New York Times reported that Otieno, who immigrated to the United States from Kenya when he was 4, may have died from asphyxiation as he was being smothered on the ground by officers.
“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,” Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a written statement released to WWBT.
“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,” Gregory said.
The deputies were placed on administrative leave and the sheriff’s office would conduct an independent investigation into the incident, Gregory said in the statement.
Authorities have not said why Otieno was taken into custody or why he was being transferred to a mental health facility.
The defendants were identified as Randy Joseph Boyer, 57, Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37, Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45, Bradley Thomas Disse, 43, Tabitha Renee Levere, 50, Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48, and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, 30.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bradley Perrett)