7 Virginia sheriff’s deputies charged with murder in inmate’s death

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies are facing murder charges in connection with the death last week of a man who was in custody.

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Irvo Otieno, 28, died on March 6, WTVR-TV and WWBT reported. The deputies charged in his death are accused of smothering him while trying to restrain him as he was being admitted to Central State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill on Tuesday announced second-degree murder charges against Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; and Kaivell Dajour Sanders, 30; WTVR-TV reported.

Bakservill said Otieno suffered a “horrible miscarriage of justice by individuals and institutions,” according to the news station. She added that the deputies’ arrests were necessary to “restore the public’s trust and promote public safety that people can believe in.”

Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement that the officers have been placed on administrative leave. She offered sympathies and condolences to Otieno’s friends and family.

“The events of March 6, at their core, represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost,” she said. “As an office, we are cooperating fully with the investigation of the Virginia State Police. Separately, we are conducting our own independent review of this incident.”

Other charges and arrests are pending as the investigation continues, the Times-Dispatch reported.

Family members told the newspaper that Otieno had a history of mental health problems that surfaced when he was in his late teens. His mother called his psychiatrist for help days before his death after he began experiencing “severe mental distress,” the Times-Dispatch reported. She said that she thought police were responding to the call when they arrived on March 3, but they were actually responding to a call from a neighbor reporting a possible burglary, according to the newspaper.

In a news release, Henrico police said officers placed Otieno under an emergency custody order “based on their interaction with and observation of Otieno.” He was taken to a hospital for evaluation, where he later “became physically assaultive towards officers,” police said.

He was arrested on three counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.

Family members told the Times-Dispatch that Otieno was held in jail without his medications on March 4 and 5, pending a visit with a jail physician on March 6. That same day, deputies transported him from jail to the hospital.

Baskervill told the Times-Dispatch that Otieno got to Central State Hospital just before 4 p.m. Less than three hours later, state police were called to investigate his death, the newspaper reported.

“The family is deeply disturbed by how Irvo was treated and when the full story comes out, the public will be shocked at the totality of the circumstances and the abuse that Irvo underwent,” attorney Mark Krudys, who is representing Otieno’s family, told the Times-Dispatch.

Authorities continue to investigate.

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