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Video shows Va. officer appearing to throw punches in Irvo Otieno’s cell

Video from Henrico County jail shows officers entering Irvo Otieno's cell and appearing to throw punches. Otieno is then carried out of the cell. (Video: Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office)
5 min

Newly released surveillance video shows a group of law enforcement officers in Virginia enter Irvo Otieno’s cell in the Henrico County Jail, and at least one appears to throw several punches in an encounter just hours before Otieno’s death at a mental hospital.

Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man, died at Central State Hospital as sheriff’s deputies from Henrico County and hospital staff piled on him for approximately 11 minutes on March 6, according to video released earlier this week by Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill.

Baskervill, who has filed second-degree murder charges against seven deputies and three hospital workers, released more videos Wednesday, showing that deputies had an earlier confrontation with Otieno, around 2:30 p.m., before his final moments at the hospital around 4:40 p.m. ABC News first obtained the jail footage, which shows deputies in Otieno’s cell for about 14 minutes.

The surveillance video from the Henrico County Jail partially shows the inside of Otieno’s cell. A deputy appears to slide a piece of clothing to Otieno through the food-tray slot on the cell door, but then the deputy and Otieno both begin to tug on the item. Otieno bangs on the glass window. Moments later, the deputy reaches into the slot, pulls out an orange tray and throws it to the side. Four deputies crowd around the door, and a struggle with Otieno through the door slot ensues.

At 2:31 p.m. in the video’s timestamp, deputies open the door and six of them enter the cell, while others remain in the hallway. The deputies appear to wrestle Otieno onto the floor. A deputy’s arm is seen punching downward in the scrum. More deputies then enter the cell.

At 2:45 p.m., approximately 14 minutes after entering the cell, six people carry Otieno out of the cell, and he appears not to be moving. Around the same time, footage from outside the jail shows deputies carrying Otieno, whose pants are down, face up into a carport, and laying him down behind a van. Five minutes later, a group then carries him around the van again, holding him by his arms and legs. They force him into the back of an SUV about 2:56 p.m., and the vehicle departs at 3:10 p.m.

The Henrico County sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Friends and family have said that Otieno, a musician from Henrico, needed mental health treatment and instead was brutalized with excessive force. Mark Krudys, a lawyer for the family, has said that video of the jail shows Henrico County sheriff’s deputies beating and pepper-spraying Otieno.

Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor, who is investigating the events at the jail separately from Baskervill’s probe, said her office has surveillance video from inside Otieno’s cell, but that she will not be releasing it until her probe is complete. “That is the subject of my investigation,” Taylor said Wednesday.

In Dinwiddie County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Baskervill identified a sheriff’s department sergeant as the “most culpable” of all 10 people who face murder charges after piling atop a shackled Otieno during a mental health crisis.

Henrico County sheriff’s Sgt. Kaiyell Sanders, 30, of North Chesterfield, struck Otieno multiple times around the head and upper body at the jail and played “the most aggressive” role later, at the hospital, Baskervill said at a bond hearing.

“This defendant is the most culpable of any,” said Baskervill, who noted that Sanders also bore special responsibility among the sheriff’s deputies as a matter of rank. “He was the one with the responsibility as a sergeant.”

Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr. set Sanders’s bond at $25,000 — substantially higher than for other defendants, despite claims from Sanders’s attorney, Edward Riley, that it was “very hard to decipher” who was doing what in surveillance video from Virginia’s Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County.

The string of bond hearings that began last week and concluded Wednesday largely turned on attempts to untangle a pile of deputies and hospital personnel to determine whose physical interactions with Otieno were minor and whose were potentially fatal.

Baskervill did not dispute that some defendants played more hands-on roles than others, but asserted even the least involved failed to intervene.

“If any one person had shown any morsel of care or common sense, Mr. Otieno would be here today,” Baskervill said.

But after poring over still photos taken from the hospital video — puzzling over who had their hands or knees on Otieno, where they were pressing on his body, for how long and why — Teefey set bond according to each defendant’s perceived physical role in the ordeal. He set bond highest for those who had physical contact for longer — or on more critical parts of Otieno’s body, such as his head or upper body — and lowest for those who mostly observed or were at Otieno’s feet.

In the case of several deputies, the judge and lawyers concluded they were mainly involved in removing the leg restraints he arrived in from the Henrico County Jail and replacing them with a pair owned by the hospital.

The judge set the lowest bond in the case — $5,000 — for the lone female defendant, deputy Tabitha Levere, 50. Her lawyer said Levere knelt on Otieno’s thigh and buttocks for “a few minutes” to help a nurse at the hospital administer an injection, but otherwise had no contact with him. Bonds for the others were set at $10,000 to $15,000.

The other sheriff’s deputies charged so far are Virginia residents Jermaine Branch, 45, Randy Boyer, 57, Bradley Disse, 43, and Brandon Rodgers, 48, all of Henrico; as well as Dwayne Bramble, 37, of Sandston.

The hospital workers charged are: Darian Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie.