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An $8.5 million settlement has been reached in the civil lawsuit involving a 28-year-old man who died after deputies and staff at a Virginia hospital pinned him down for 11 minutes during a mental health crisis.
A Virginia Circuit Court judge approved the settlement between the family of Irvo Otieno and the County of Henrico, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Henrico County Sheriff, attorneys for the family said in a news release.
“The family is pleased that they were able to find a resolution outside of court in a manner that honors Irvo’s life,” the attorneys said in a statement.
The state, county and sheriff did not admit liability in the death, The Associated Press reported.
Representatives from the offices of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the sheriff did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jason Miyares said her agency could not comment.
In a statement to Law&Crime, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said Otieno’s death was a profound tragedy.
“The Governor pushed for a settlement with the hope that doing so proactively and fairly might alleviate — in a small way — some of the suffering that Irvo’s mother and brother faced, recognizing that no settlement can take the place of a loved one,” she said. “Governor Youngkin remains committed to transforming the behavioral health system to ensure that those in crisis will receive the care they need and that they will receive it at the right time and in the right place.”
A video of the incident shows a group of deputies escorting Otieno in ankle restraints and handcuffs into a room at Central State Hospital in Virginia on March 6. The video shows hospital staff joining the deputies in trying to hold him down. At one point, the deputies and staff can be seen surrounding Otieno, lying motionless on the floor. Nine deputies and several hospital workers can be seen pinning him to the floor. Hospital workers tried CPR without success.
The Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said his cause of death was asphyxia, and the manner of death was homicide.
Ten defendants were indicted on second-degree murder charges. Charges against two hospital employees were dropped. Attorneys for some of the defendants have said they would vigorously defend their clients and that Otieno was combative, the AP reported.
Otieno’s family said on a fundraising page he was suffering a mental illness breakdown, was not putting up a fight and was in handcuffs and leg shackles when “his life was brutally taken on March 6th, 2023 by Henrico County Deputy sheriffs.”
When she saw the video, Otieno’s mother, Caroline Ouko, was heartbroken.
“It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured,” she said in a news conference with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.
Crump said the video is a commentary on the inhumane treatment by law enforcement of those who are having mental health crises. He said Otieno was not aggressive with the deputies or hospital staff.
“You see him being restrained so brutally,” he said. “The weight of seven individuals on his body while he’s face down handcuffed with leg irons, and you say, ‘My God, why? It is so unnecessary. It’s so unjustifiable.””
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