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Irvo Otieno’s family agrees to Sh1.25bn out-of-court wrongful death settlement

By Hilary Kimuyu September 22nd, 2023 2 min read

The family of Kenyan-born Irvo Otieno, the 28-year-old man who died of asphyxia at a United States mental hospital as sheriff’s deputies and orderlies pinned him down, has reached a settlement with Virginia, Henrico County and the county sheriff’s office over his death.

A Virginia Circuit Court judge approved a Sh1.25 billion ($8.5million) settlement between the family and the county, attorneys for the family said in a news release on Thursday.

A judge approved the out-of-court wrongful death settlement Tuesday, according to an agreement filed in Henrico County Circuit Court.

The settlement agreement says the state, county and the sheriff have not admitted any liability and deny that their actions caused Otieno’s death, but have agreed to collectively pay the $8.5 million to Otieno’s family and their attorneys.

Also read: ‘My son was treated worse than a dog’ – Irvo Otieno’s mother speaks

“The family is pleased that they were able to find a resolution outside of court in a manner that honours Irvo Otieno’s life,” the attorneys said in a statement.

Otieno, who emigrated to the US from Kenya at the age of 4, was taken into custody on March 3 and on March 6, he was taken from the Henrico jail to Central State by county sheriff’s deputies.

Irvo Otieno.

He died while handcuffed and pinned to the floor of Central State Hospital for about 11 minutes by seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees. His death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

All 10 defendants were indicted on second-degree murder charges, but charges against two of the hospital employees were later dropped.

Also read: Video reveals how Irvo Otieno was brutalised before he died in the US

Otieno’s family said the deceased, who had a long history of mental health problems, struggled to breathe while he was being held down.

Some of the defendants’ lawyers said Otieno was combative and they were simply trying to restrain him.

Irvo Otieno with his family.
Irvo Otieno with his family. PHOTO | Ben Crump Law

During his eulogy, Rev Al Sharpton called for a change in how law enforcement handles mental health cases.

“He had an illness. He should have been doctored to, not treated with brutality,” said Rev Sharpton while delivering his eulogy in March.

During the funeral, the late Otieno was remembered was an empathetic, energetic and well-respected friend, teammate and musical artist.

Also read: How Nairobi Hospital Finance boss met his death at the hands of knife-wielding killer