Nearly a month after a young Black man died in police custody at a mental health hospital in Virginia, the official cause of his death has been revealed and confirmed the suspicions of his family.
Irvo Otieno lost his life in a similar fashion to George Floyd, lawyers representing his family said after it was announced on Monday that the official cause of his death was a homicide, according to 6 News Richmond.
Irvo Otieno’s cause of death
The findings from the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — which ruled that the 28-year-old was killed from “positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints” — came weeks after seven police deputies and three hospital employees who were all indicted by a grand jury on second-degree murder charges.
For Otieno’s family’s attorneys, the cause of death served as confirmation.
“The official cause and manner of death is not surprising to us as it corroborates what the world witnessed in the video,” the attorneys said in a statement emailed to NewsOne after the cause of death was announced. “In a chilling parallel to George Floyd’s killing, Irvo was held down and excessively restrained to death, when he should have been provided medical help and compassion. It is tragic that yet another life has been lost to this malicious and deadly restraint technique.”
After learning of the official cause of death, Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, said, “all must know what they did to my son.”
Otieno’s funeral was held last week during which he was eulogized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who called for “independent monitors in matters of police misconduct in mental health cases.”
What happened to Irvo Otieno?
According to family members, Otieno had a long-running history of mental health struggles.
On March 3, he was taken to a Richmond area hospital for psychiatric treatment. Allegedly, he became violent and combative at the facility and was jailed, officials from the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth office have said.
Otieno was criminally charged and denied access to crucial medication for his condition, family members said.
On March 6, Otieno was transferred from a Henrico County jail to Central State Hospital, where he was allegedly killed that same day.
According to surveillance video footage released by a prosecutor, Otieno was pinned on the floor by multiple security guards at the hospital before his death.
Officials also released a 911 phone call that offered more details about the harrowing incident. According to CNN, in the audio, a caller repeatedly asked for medical assistance after Otieno stopped breathing. They claimed he was “very aggressive” and combative before losing oxygen.
In the footage, officers could be seen carrying Otieno into the hospital from an SUV just before 4 p.m. on March 6.
Nearly 20 minutes after the SUV’s arrival, officers removed Otieno from the vehicle and forcefully escorted him inside. He was hunched over and appeared to be in distress.
Further along in the clip, a different camera showed Otieno being forcibly led into a room with tables and chairs. The officers pushed him toward a seat and eventually, he slumps down toward the floor.
Several officers then force Otieno to lie face down flat on the floor. At times, his body can barely be seen in the video due to the number of officers pinning him down to the ground with their weight.
During a bond hearing, defense attorneys for the indicted officials said they were only trying to restrain Otieno and that there was no evidence of an intent to kill the man in distress.
Otieno’s family has pushed back against their claims of innocence.
All 10 defendants have been granted bond and have pre-trial hearings set.
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