‘Chilling’ similarities with George Floyd in man’s in-custody death


(NEW YORK) — The Virginia man who died after being held down for more than 10 minutes by deputies and hospital staff in what his family described as torture was asphyxiated, according to the state’s medical examiner.

Attorneys for the family of Irvo Otieno said that findings had eerie similarities to the death of George Floyd almost three years ago.

“Irvo was held down and excessively restrained to death, when he should have been provided medical help and compassion. It is tragic that yet another life has been lost to this malicious and deadly restraint technique,” family attorneys Ben Crump and Mark Krudys said in a statement.

According to the medical examiner, the official cause of death is “positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints,” and the official manner of death is “homicide.”

Family attorneys Ben Crump and Mark Krudys released a statement Monday afternoon after being informed by the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner regarding the medical examiner’s findings.

According to the family attorney’s Monday release, Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, was initially unable to speak when she first heard the news but proceeded to demand justice for her son.

“All must know what they did to my son,” she said, according to the release.

The family attorneys did not find the official cause and manner of death surprising because “it corroborates what the world witnessed in the video.”

On March 15, seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees were arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection to Otieno’s death. All parties involved have been indicted by a grand jury. Currently, no pleas have been entered.

On March 3, a neighbor called the police on Otieno during a mental health crisis, according to his mother, and he was then transferred to a nearby hospital. There, he was arrested and taken the Henrico County Jail. After three days at the jail, Otieno was transferred to Virginia’s Central State Hospital where officers and health care workers are seen pilling on top of him for several minutes, according to released video footage. Otieno was pronounced dead the same day on March 6.

Video footage showed Otieno being pulled from his cell partially naked and being moved into a police vehicle that transferred him to the hospital. In video footage obtained by ABC News, Otieno can be seen at the hospital being held down for nearly 11 minutes until he stops moving.

“The disgrace was not Irvo had a mental illness. The disgrace is how [police] treat it, and you do it all over the country,” Rev. Al Sharpton said during Otieno’s funeral last week. “The question is why is law enforcement not equipped to handle the mentally challenged?”

The officers and medical staff are not expected in court until late April or early May.

Attorney Stephen A. Mutnick, representing defendant Randy Boyer, said in statement to ABC on Tuesday that they have “not received a copy of the medical examiner’s report and the toxicology report,” and asked the media to “refrain from passing judgement until all of the evidence can be represented fairly in the court of law.”

“The family of Irvo Otieno deserve answers, but those answers must be based on all of the facts,” the statement continued.

The other defendants did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

“When I took my son to the hospital, this is not what I envisioned. I didn’t think my son was not coming home,” Ouko said. “But this is where we are. And I’m sorry.”

ABC News’ Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

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