‘My son was treated worse than a dog’ – Irvo Otieno’s mother speaks
Irvo Otieno’s family on Thursday spoke out for the first time at a press conference day after their kin died at a mental health facility in the US.
His family and their lawyers spoke shortly after watching the video from the hospital where Otieno died.
Local prosecutor, the family and attorneys condemned the brutal treatment Otieno, 28, was subjected to, first at a local jail and then at the state hospital where authorities say he died on March 6 during the admission process.
At Thursday’s press conference, his family and their lawyer Ben Crump talked about the video and the acts of violence that were inflicted on Otieno in the moments leading up to his death.
Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, described the video and her son’s treatment by the Henrico deputies now being charged with his death in one word, torture.
“What I saw today was heartbreaking, America. It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured,” she said.
She says she wouldn’t wish what she saw on anyone.
“My son was treated like a dog,” Ouko said. “Worse than a dog.”
Otieno suffocated from the weight of the deputies lying on top of him, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill, describing it as an act of deliberately cruel treatment.
The prosecutor said there was no justification for the officers’ actions, which she called a “demonstration of power that was unlawful.”
According to the family’s attorneys, Otieno was an aspiring musician and well-known high school athlete in Henrico County.
Immigrating to the US from Kenya with his family as a child, Otieno was “deeply loved by his parents,” their attorney said.
“This was my baby. He cared for people. He cared that people were treated right. That was at the core of the upbringing in our home,” Otieno’s mother added.
Otieno had a history of mental health battles and was experiencing distress at the time of his first encounter with law enforcement.
According to Henrico County Police, a separate agency from the county sheriff’s department, officers were responding to a report of a possible burglary on March 3 and encountered Otieno, putting him under an emergency custody order “based on his behavior” and taking him to a local hospital for evaluation.
The police’s statement on the incident did not describe Otieno’s behaviour that led to the order.
Three hospital employees were arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Otieno, a Kenyan American who died at the mental health facility in the US last week.
The arrest of the three hospital staff now brings ten individuals who have been charged with second-degree murder in connection to his death.
According to the Times-Dispatch, Otieno died in police custody during his intake process on March 6 as he was being transferred from a Henrico County jail.
Police alleged that Otieno became “physically assaultive toward officers, who arrested him” and took him to the County jail. He was served with several charges and held over the weekend without most or all of his medications.
That set off a chain of events that led to him spending several days in custody before authorities say he died March 6 as he was being admitted to Central State Hospital south of Richmond.
According to Baskerville, Henrico’s jail video shows several deputies tackling and beating Otieno while naked.
The footage the family watched Thursday has not been publicly released.
Along with the three hospital workers, seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Office members will appear before a grand jury on March 21.