(MENAFN) A grand jury has indicted the 10 people charged in the death of Irvo Otieno, a mentally ill man who suffocated to death earlier this month while in law enforcement custody in Virginia. Seven deputies from the Henrico County Sheriff's Office and three hospital employees were indicted on one count of second-degree murder each. The deputies had been charged with second-degree murder earlier this month and turned themselves in to the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Otieno, 28, was being transported from the Henrico County jail to Virginia's Central State Hospital, a state-run psychiatric facility, on March 6. A spokesperson had earlier told CBS News that Otieno had become combative while being transported to the facility. Surveillance video from the hospital shows Otieno, handcuffed and in leg irons, being led to a chair in the admission room. About eight minutes later, video shows at least two officers holding Otieno on the ground, reacting when he moves. The officers then seem to lose their grip on him, and he is rolled across the floor. Four minutes later, more police and hospital staff arrive and restrain him.
At least nine people were seen on camera piling on top of Otieno as other hospital staff look on. The video shows that he was held down for 11 minutes. He died at the scene. Otieno's mother, Caroline Ouko, who reviewed the video before it was publicly released, said, "My son was treated like a dog. Worse than a dog. My son was tortured."
The incident has raised questions about the treatment of mentally ill people in police custody and the use of force by law enforcement officers. It has also sparked calls for police reform and accountability. The indictment of the seven deputies and three hospital employees is a significant development in the case and sends a message that excessive use of force and mistreatment of inmates will not be tolerated.
The death of Irvo Otieno is a tragic reminder of the need for better training and protocols for law enforcement officers handling mentally ill individuals. It is also a reminder of the importance of holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions. While the indictment of the 10 people charged in Otieno's death is a step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done to ensure that incidents like this do not happen again. As such, it is crucial that policymakers and law enforcement agencies take concrete steps to address the issues raised by this case and work towards a more just and equitable criminal justice system.
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