A Police Killing Inside a Hospital: Ben Crump on Death of Irvo Otieno During Mental Health Crisis

As new footage is launched in regards to the stunning killing of Irvo Otieno inside a hospital in Virginia, we communicate with civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represents Otieno’s household. Surveillance video exhibits seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees violently pinned Otieno to the ground and piled on him for greater than 11 minutes, suffocating him. New video launched Wednesday reveals no less than one officer had additionally repeatedly punched Otieno earlier that day. A grand jury has indicted the ten males concerned on second-degree homicide prices. Otieno was having a psychological well being disaster, which Crump says is just too typically a demise sentence for Black folks in police encounters. “What occurred to Irvo isn’t an remoted incident in America,” says Crump.


This can be a rush transcript. Copy is probably not in its last kind.

AMY GOODMAN: A warning to our viewers: This story incorporates photographs and descriptions of police violence.

We start at present’s present trying on the demise of Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man and aspiring musician who was killed March sixth inside a hospital in Virginia, the place he had been taken to obtain psychological well being remedy. Surprising video launched this week exhibits seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees violently pinned Irvo Otieno to the hospital ground and piled on him for greater than 11 minutes, suffocating him. Earlier this week, a Virginia grand jury indicted the ten males concerned on second-degree homicide prices.

Otieno’s demise occurred at Central State Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. New video launched Wednesday reveals no less than one officer had additionally repeatedly punched Irvo earlier that day when a gaggle of them rushed into his cell, his jail cell. When the officers carried Otieno out of the cell, he was not shifting. They put his limp physique in a van to move him to the hospital, the place he died after being pinned to the bottom by the seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees.

Irvo Otieno was an aspiring musician who suffered from psychological well being challenges. He had been taken from his house and locked up three days earlier than he was killed, after a neighbor referred to as police to report he had walked onto their property and had taken some lights and was banging on the entrance door.

That is Irvo Otieno’s mom, Caroline Ouko, who moved to Virginia together with her household from Kenya within the ’90s.

CAROLINE OUKO: Though Irvo was going by way of psychological sickness, what I noticed at present — what I noticed at present was heartbreaking, America. It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured, to place it proper. I noticed the torture. There isn’t any method that Henrico County sheriff deputies had been on him, seven folks, seven officers, on one man. And all this began when my son went to hospital on the third. And that night, he was taken to jail, raced from the again of the jail into the hospital. These three days at Henrico County Jail had been horror. I’ve seen it on video, and I feel there’s some extra. However I’m right here to mourn. And I’m mourning the lifetime of this younger man, my son. Psychological sickness shouldn’t be your ticket to demise.


CAROLINE OUKO: There was an opportunity to rescue him. There was an opportunity to cease what was occurring. And I don’t perceive how all methods failed him. I don’t perceive why one single system couldn’t maintain up and say, “Cease. We cease right here.” My son was handled like a canine, worse than a canine. I noticed it with my very own eyes on the video.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Caroline Ouko, the mom of Irvo Otieno, who was killed by seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees inside a psychological well being facility in Virginia March sixth.

We go now to civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who’s representing Irvo’s household.

Ben, welcome again to Democracy Now! This horrific story continues to unfold as a result of increasingly more video has been launched. Inform us what occurred on March sixth, particularly with the most recent video that’s hours earlier than what we had seen, and what the household is looking for proper now. How did this occur to Irvo?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Thanks for having me, Amy.

And there may be extra video to be launched that’s equally disturbing that has not been launched to the general public, that the household and our authorized group have been capable of evaluate.

On March sixth, Irvo Otieno was having a psychological well being disaster, Amy. And regrettably, like so many different Black folks in America who’ve psychological well being points, they aren’t handled like medical points. They’re handled like prison points. And plenty of instances, when they’re confronted by the police, these psychological well being points results in them being sentenced to demise, like we noticed on this disturbing video of Irvo.

I imply, he was in a psychological hospital, for God’s sakes. Isn’t it foreseeable that individuals who have psychological well being points and are in disaster, and so they’re within the hospital, that they’re going to have conditions the place they’ve disaster? And so, they need to have the ability to take care of them with out the individual being killed.

And once you have a look at the video, he was handcuffed at his wrists. He had leg irons on his ankles. And so, he posed no risk to anybody, not himself, to not the officers or hospital employees. You have a look at the video, his physique appeared lifeless once they dragged him to the automobile, and positively once they dragged him into the room the place we witnessed him being face down and 7 sheriff’s deputies from Henrico County and three safety guards from the medical facility all piled on high of him, all put the brunt of their weight on him, put their knees on his again, on his neck, not for a couple of minutes however for nearly 12 minutes. And because the prosecutor stated, Amy, when she charged them with second-degree homicide, they actually smothered him to demise. And that’s tragic, when you concentrate on he dedicated no crime. He was there as a result of he had —

AMY GOODMAN: Let me simply play, Ben —

BENJAMIN CRUMP: — psychological well being points.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Legal professional Ann Cabell Baskervill talking throughout one of many first hearings final week for the seven deputies charged within the demise of Irvo Otieno.

ANN CABELL BASKERVILL: He was held down on the bottom, inclined on the bottom, for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged right here, together with this one, a lot in order that they smothered him, and so they smothered him to the demise. … It’s the defendant’s place that the sufferer on this case was agitated and combative in the direction of — they’ve all used. There may be video footage of precisely what occurred, and he was not agitated and combative.

AMY GOODMAN: I imply, that is key, Ben. The Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s lawyer stated he was not combative.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yeah, and on the video, Amy — the one advantage of video — and thank God for the appearance of know-how, as a result of for many years Black folks would say that the police are brutalizing us, that they’re engaged in extreme pressure, and other people would at all times imagine the police phrase. They might take the police narrative. However now with video, you possibly can see for your self what occurred. And there’s no video that we now have seen that exhibits Irvo being combative or posing a risk to anyone. They’re saying, “Take our phrase for it.” And even irrespective, Amy, if he did one thing in some unspecified time in the future throughout his disaster, we clearly see on the video that has been launched to the general public that by no means was Irvo posing a risk.

I imply, when you concentrate on it, I bought so many calls from all throughout America, internationally, saying, “Why?” That is so pointless. He’s handcuffed and shackled. If they only depart him within the room and look ahead to him to get correct medical consideration, then who’s at hurt? Why do it’s a must to put him face down? Why do it’s a must to put knees in his again? Why do it’s a must to smother him to demise? It’s — it’s simply so pointless, as many of those deaths. And three years after George Floyd, why would police or regulation enforcement officers be placing their knees anyplace on a restrained one that is face down?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Completely, Ben Crump. And in the event you might clarify — I imply, what’s particularly stunning and horrifying about this incident is, after all, that it takes place in a hospital, and that, too, in a psychological hospital, the place, presumably, the medical employees is accustomed to coping with folks, even — on this case, he’s not even combative. However even when he had been, what would justify, in a facility like this, the police, along with medical employees, actively, in truth, murdering one in all their sufferers?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: There may be nothing that will justify it. In reality, what’s equally troubling is that you’ve got so many individuals standing round, and no one intervenes. We keep in mind on Tyre Nichols’ tragic killing in Memphis, Tennessee, that was one of many preeminent points that none of these law enforcement officials intervened whereas they had been watching a younger man be beat to demise, be tortured. And so, you see these comparable points right here in Richmond, Virginia, the place no one intervened, not the medical employees, not any of the safety, anyone there. They merely watched.

And may you think about setting your stopwatch for 12 minutes, and simply take into consideration how a lot time goes into 12 minutes, what number of seconds, and the truth that Irvo can’t breathe? They’re saying that, nicely, he was nonetheless shifting once they had him on the bottom. Our consultants opine, completely, you’ll be shifting, too, in the event you’re face down, restrained, and also you’ve bought 10 folks on high of you for 12 minutes. For those who’re struggling, you’re making an attempt to maneuver so you may get air. And that’s what was denied to Irvo, his alternative to breathe. And that’s what could be very disturbing, that the medical personnel, who’re educated on tips on how to protect life, couldn’t acknowledge that Irvo wanted any individual to intervene to provide him the advantage of the doubt, the advantage of their professionalism, and, principally, the advantage of humanity.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Ben, might you speak about this particular hospital the place he was held and the place this incident occurred? It has a —



BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yeah, it has — as my co-counsel Mark Krudys and I’ve been researching with our authorized group, this actually isn’t the primary incident the place sufferers who’ve been, I assume, coping with psychological well being crises have been abused, within the sense that different Black folks have alleged that police used extreme pressure in opposition to them. And, you realize, they provide you with all sort of issues to attempt to justify the reason for demise, however I imagine, as different households have alleged, their relations had been killed due to an overdose of extreme pressure.

And so, we now have to make use of this as a possibility to take care of the problems of psychological well being in America. We’d like laws. We’d like insurance policies to attempt to forestall any extra Irvos. You already know, President Biden, a pair days in the past, had the tv solid of Ted Lasso, the award-winning present, on the White Home to speak in regards to the significance of psychological well being. Properly, it’s my fervent hope that they might have engaged with Black individuals who have psychological well being points, to say that we have to deal with these necessary, as nicely, and never as prison points, as a result of we noticed it in Pam Turner in Houston, Texas, a Black lady having a psychological well being disaster, and the police find yourself capturing her within the face, within the chest and within the abdomen, whereas she’s laying on the bottom on her again. And that video is horrific. After which we see Gershun Freeman in Memphis, Tennessee, Shelby County Jail, who’s beat to demise whereas he’s bare within the jail having a psychological well being disaster.

And so, what occurred to Irvo isn’t an remoted incident in America. While you’re Black in America and you’ve got a psychological well being disaster, too typically the figuring out issue of whether or not you reside or die turns into the colour of your pores and skin and the standing of your psychological well being. And that shouldn’t be the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Ben, I need to return to Irvo’s mom, Caroline Ouko.

CAROLINE OUKO: This younger man you see right here had an enormous coronary heart. Irvo was the man that his classmates drew to once they wanted somebody to speak to. He was a listener. He would take time to take heed to them. After which he would take time to course of after which lean again in. My son was a pacesetter; he was not a follower. He additionally introduced a special perspective to the desk. If there was a dialogue, he was not afraid to go the opposite method when everyone else is following. That is my child. He cared for folks. He cared that individuals had been handled proper.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s so horrifying to fulfill, all too typically, younger Black males after their demise, with their moms or sisters or companions describing who they had been. Ben Crump, as we wrap up, the pile-on was greater than 11 minutes. Within the case of Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd, it was nine-and-a-half minutes. At this level, what are you demanding?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: We’re demanding —

AMY GOODMAN: And in addition, are you able to speak about the truth that the protection attorneys have referred to as for holding Irvo’s physique — it may very well be weeks — one thing that the choose dominated in opposition to yesterday?

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Yeah, you realize, it’s god-awful that this household is having to grieve the demise of an pointless, unjustifiable and unconstitutional killing of their liked one, however it’s insult on high of harm to say that they will be prevented for probably weeks at having the funeral providers for Irvo as a result of these protection attorneys are arguing that they’ve a proper to do an post-mortem or some impartial post-mortem from their selecting. Properly, you realize, it’s disturbing. They’ve video. I imply, there’s no query what killed him. The health worker has accomplished the post-mortem. They’ll get pleasure from having all of the slides and the stories from that post-mortem. However to attempt to maintain up his funeral is disturbing, particularly for this household. Are you able to think about your beloved being killed by the people who find themselves supposed to guard and serve him, however then they’re making an attempt to say you possibly can’t have the funeral for one more month?

I imply, we are able to’t permit that to occur. And I pray that the choose won’t permit that to occur, as a result of what we want is, similar to the police chief stated in Memphis, Tennessee, once you see a tragedy like this, an injustice like this, against the law dedicated like this, on video, the neighborhood must see us shifting swiftly. We have to transfer swiftly in the direction of justice, as a result of justice delayed is justice denied.

AMY GOODMAN: Ben Crump, we need to thanks very a lot for being with us. I imagine the choose did rule in opposition to the protection request to carry the physique of Irvo, saying a corpse “isn’t a T-shirt” or one thing else that may be simply saved. Ben Crump, civil rights lawyer representing the household of Irvo Otieno.

Developing, we communicate to the Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, creator of the brand new ebook, A Stranger in Your Personal Metropolis: Travels within the Center East’s Lengthy Battle. Stick with us.

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