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Charges have been dropped against five deputies in the death of Irvo Otieno

The mother of a Virginia man who died after being pinned to the ground for more than 10 minutes by sheriff’s deputies and medical staff while admitted to a psychiatric hospital last year expressed outrage Monday over the prosecutor’s decision to to drop the murder charge. against five deputies.

A judge on Sunday granted Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Amanda Mann’s requests to drop charges against deputies in the March 6, 2023, death of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno.

Ten people, including seven deputies and three hospital employees, were initially charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death, but charges against two of the hospital employees were later dropped. Charges now remain against just two deputies and one hospital worker.

Mann said in a statement Monday that her office filed motions Friday to dismiss charges against deputies Randy Joseph Boyer, Dwayne Alan Bramble, Jermaine Lavar Branch, Bradley Thomas Disse and Tabitha Renee Levere.

This year they were to be tried separately. In her motion, Mann wrote that the order of their trials was of “strategic importance” and that the dates set by her predecessor were not “sound and competent prosecutorial decision-making.”

“The motions speak for themselves; Therefore, this office has no further information to provide in these cases,” Mann said.

Mann could still seek to renew the charges, said Mark Krudys, an attorney for Otieno’s family.

Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said Monday that she and her lawyers met with Mann and objected to her request to drop the charges.

“We did not support her plan,” Ouko said at a press conference with Krudys on Monday. Another attorney, Benjamin Crump, appeared virtually.

Ouko called the dropped charges “a radical, reckless decision with major consequences for justice for Irvo Otieno.” She called on the Ministry of Justice to intervene.

“We hope the Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney can do her job. And if she’s not willing to prosecute, the DOJ, where are you? Where are you? Ministry of Justice, where are you? Ouko said, her voice breaking. “It’s time. It’s time for you to bring your boots to Richmond and stand for Irvo. And get justice for my son.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice confirmed receipt of requests to investigate Otieno’s death. “We are closely monitoring the state criminal proceedings regarding this matter and we have no further comment at this time,” the spokesperson said.

Image: US police killing (Ben Crump Law / AFP - Getty Images)Image: US police killing (Ben Crump Law / AFP - Getty Images)

Image: US police killing (Ben Crump Law / AFP – Getty Images)

Otieno was arrested on March 3, 2023, after Henrico County police officers responded to a possible burglary call, police said. Officers placed him under a pretrial detention order, which is used under state law in mental illness cases, and took him to a hospital for further evaluation, a police statement said. At the hospital, police said, Otieno became “physically aggressive toward officers.”

He was then taken to the Henrico County Jail and charged with three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and one count of disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.

On March 6, 2023, he was taken to a state psychiatric hospital, Central State, in Dinwiddie County, where he died after being pinned to the ground for about 11 minutes by a group of Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and hospital workers.

Hospital surveillance footage, which was released without audio, showed deputies entering a room, dragging Otieno and forcing him to the ground, where they restrained him until his death, which was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

Otieno’s family says he has a long history of mental health problems.

According to Mann’s office, charges are still pending against two deputies, Brandon Edward Rodgers and Kaiyell Dajour Sanders, and Wavie Lavon Jones, an employee at Central State Hospital. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Attorneys for four of the officers against whom charges were dropped Monday — Boyer, Branch, Disse and Levere — did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An attorney for the fifth, Bramble, said he was satisfied with the decision.

“We are pleased that this prosecutor was willing to make a decision based on the law and the evidence rather than other factors,” Russ Stone said.

Ouko said she believed all the original defendants were to blame.

“He was restrained, they had him,” said Crump, who also represents the families of Tire Nichols and George Floyd. “He wasn’t going anywhere. He was in the mental hospital, for God’s sake. Why the need to put all that weight on him so heavily that he suffocates?’

In September, Otieno’s family reached an $8.5 million settlement with the state, the county and the sheriff whose deputies were involved in restraining him. The settlement agreement stated that they had not admitted any liability and denied that their actions had caused Otieno’s death.

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