(Washington) Seven police officers and three hospital workers have been charged with murder after the death of an African-American inmate on March 6 at a psychiatric hospital in the state of Virginia, the prosecutor in charge of the case announced on Thursday.
Irvo Otieno, 28, died ten days ago on admission to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, three hours south of Washington, after being transferred from a local jail due to his mental condition.
According to initial autopsy results, he died of asphyxiation while “restrained physically,” Dinwiddie County District Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said in a statement.
The prosecutor has a video of the tragedy, which she does not wish to make public at the moment, but which was shown Thursday to the family of the young man.
“Even though my son was in the midst of a mental illness, what I saw was heartbreaking,” his mother Caroline Ouko said at a press conference.
According to her, the video shows “seven agents on one man” and “it lasts” without anyone intervening. “They suffocated my baby”, “they treated him like a dog, worse than a dog”, she added with emotion.
According to the family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, the young man was handcuffed and had his ankles shackled, and the seven police officers remained on him for twelve minutes.
Aged 30 to 57, the seven Henrico County Sheriff’s employees were taken into custody and charged with murder on Tuesday.
Three hospital officers, aged 23 to 34, were arrested and charged on the same count Thursday.
The case evokes the murder of George Floyd, a black man in his forties who died in 2020, suffocated by a white Minneapolis police officer. The video of his ordeal, which had gone around the world, had sparked a huge mobilization against racism and police violence.