Seven US police officers and three hospital workers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Black inmate at a psychiatric hospital in Virginia, the case prosecutor announced Thursday.
Irvo Otieno, 28, died March 6 while at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, three hours south of the US capital Washington, after being transferred from a local prison because of his mental condition.
According to preliminary autopsy results, he died of asphyxiation while being “physically restrained,” Dinwiddie County District Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in a statement.
Video footage of Otieno’s death was shown Thursday to his family.
Though Otieno “was going through mental illness, what I saw today was heart-breaking,” his mother Caroline Ouko told a press conference.
She said the video shows “seven officers on one man,” and that it “goes on and on.”
“My son was treated like a dog, worse than a dog. I saw it with my own eyes… they smothered my baby,” she said.
The family have retained Ben Crump, a high-profile lawyer known for representing the families of victims in incidents of violence carried out by police against African Americans.
Crump told media that Otieno was handcuffed and had his ankles shackled, and the seven police officers pinned him down for 12 minutes.
Ranging in age from 30 to 57, the seven Henrico County sheriff’s employees were taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder Tuesday.
Three hospital employees, ages 23 to 34, were arrested and arraigned on the same charge Thursday.
The United States is undergoing a reckoning on police brutality and racism sparked by the 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Video of Floyd’s death, which shocked the world, reignited long-simmering anger and fear over police violence which disproportionately targets African Americans and sparked massive protests against racism and brutality.
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