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Medical examiner rules homicide in Irvo Otieno’s death

Crump holding microphone as Mark Krudys listens.
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Attorneys Ben Crump delivers the call for justice as Mark Krudys listens on during a funeral service for Irvo Otieno on Wednesday.

In a statement, the family’s attorneys said the report reinforces images of video footage.

The state medical examiner on Monday ruled Irvo Otieno’s death a homicide. The 28-year-old died on March 6 while being admitted to a state psychiatric hospital.

The autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed Otieno died by “positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints."

Ben Crump and Mark Krudys, the family’s attorneys, released a statement shortly after the medical examiner’s ruling.

“The official cause and manner of death is not surprising to us as it corroborates what the world witnessed in the video,” the pair wrote in an email. “Irvo was held down and excessively restrained to death, when he should have been provided medical help and compassion.”

The ruling follows recent reporting by the Richmond Times-Dispatch that highlights state and county officials' reluctance to release information about Otieno's medical treatment while he was in custody. Various officials, asked for either comment or documents related to the case, cited the ongoing criminal investigation as the reason for not releasing additional information.

Otieno was first taken into custody by Henrico County officers on March 3 after they received a call about a man taking lights from a neighbor's yard. Otieno was transported to an area hospital after being placed under an emergency custody order. Officials said he assaulted officers and was again moved — this time to Henrico County Jail.

Three days later, Otieno was transported by sheriff’s deputies to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, where he died prior to being admitted. A video of the incident shows a number of people atop Otieno, attempting to restrain him.

Ten people have been indicted on second-degree murder charges in Otieno’s death: 7 Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees.

Last week, Henrico County spokesperson Will Jones spoke with VPM News about the county’s implementation of the Marcus Alert system, which aims to delineate among emergency calls and dispatch either law enforcement or mental health workers in response.

The program — per state law — will be fully in place in Henrico by summer 2024. Currently, a voluntary database through the program gives residents the ability to submit mental health information that call center employees can access.

In late March, Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked for the public’s patience as the case moves through the legal system and pointed to the need for changes in the mental health system.

“There is a judicial process going on and we have to fully respect that, and I ask everybody to please fully respect it,” he said. “We also can just see the heart-wrenching nature of the challenges in our behavioral health system.”

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.