Three Virginia mental hospital workers have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Irvo Otieno, a Black man who died while in custody last week. The case is one of the most high-profile deaths of Black people in police custody since the killings of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols in Tennessee and Minneapolis, respectively.
Darian Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie, were arrested Thursday and are being held without bail in the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Brunswick County. They are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Irvo Otieno, who died March 6 during the transfer process at Central State Hospital.
The 28-year-old had been a high school athlete and an aspiring musician, his family told CNN affiliate WTVR. He had mental health issues and was struggling as a young adult. He was a resident of Henrico County, Virginia, and his family moved from Kenya to the United States when he was four.
According to the Henrico Police Department, Otieno was first encountered by officers responding to a report of a possible burglary in the suburbs on March 3. Officers and members of the local crisis intervention team placed him under an emergency custody order based on interactions with him, the department said.
After being taken to the Henrico County jail, Otieno became “physically assaultive” toward officers, who arrested him and transferred him to the Central State Hospital. He was held on three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, as well as charges of disorderly conduct and vandalism.
Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said three Central State Hospital workers – Darian Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie County – were charged with murder in the death of Irvo Otieno. All three are being held without bond at Meherrin River Regional Jail in Brunswick County, Virginia.
The family of Otieno, who was a 28-year-old Henrico County man with a history of mental illness, is outraged by the charges against the hospital employees. They want answers about what led to their loved one’s death, and are calling on authorities to release surveillance video of the incident.
According to a timeline provided by Henrico police, Otieno was detained on an emergency custody order March 3 after encountering officers responding to a report of a burglary in suburban Richmond. Otieno was later taken to a hospital for evaluation.
His mother, who is the primary caregiver to his family, was present and implored Henrico police not to be aggressive with him as he experienced a mental health crisis, according to Mark Krudys, an attorney for Otieno’s family. He also notes that Otieno was deprived of his medications that day, which his family believed were crucial to his health.
On March 6, seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies, including the three now-charged employees of Central State Hospital, arrived at the facility and transported Otieno to the hospital. He was pinned down to the ground by the deputies, and was restrained with handcuffs and leg irons.
The mother of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old Henrico man who died earlier this month while being transported to a mental hospital in Virginia, said she was shocked to learn that her son had been killed by police. The family viewed surveillance video on Thursday that prosecutors said showed Otieno being handcuffed and shackled by seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies at Central State Hospital in Petersburg.
The family’s attorney, Mark Krudys, said Otieno was a close-knit member of his family, who moved to the United States from Kenya when he was 4. He was a high school athlete, went to college and had a musical career.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a history of substance abuse, Krudys says. His family had visited him repeatedly in jail to try to get his medication, and was told it would be a “period of time” before he could see a doctor.
According to court records, Williams worked at Central State Hospital when Otieno died on March 6. He was arrested Thursday and is being held without bail at the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Brunswick County.
Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in a news release that she is investigating the case. She did not name the employees who were arrested, but Reuters identifies them as Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddie. Will we see a change in this country?