Family of killed mental health patient reaches $8.5 million settlement | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Family of killed mental health patient reaches $8.5 million settlement

The 28-year-old Black man died after being handcuffed and pinned to the floor for over 11 minutes.

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — The family of Irvo Otieno, a mental health patient whom deputies and hospital staff smothered to death, reached a $8.5 million settlement.  

“The family of Irvo Otieno and the county of Henrico, its sheriff, and the Commonwealth of Virginia have reached a confidential settlement regarding the death of Irvo Otieno,” prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the family, said in a statement. “The family is pleased that they were able to find a resolution outside of court in a manner that honors Irvo’s life.”

A Henrico County judge approved the out-of-court death settlement Tuesday according to an agreement filed in the county’s circuit court.   

The 28-year-old Black man’s death caused a national outcry and calls for mental health and police reform after a video circulated of police and hospital staff forcefully dragging Otieno into a room, restraining him with handcuffs and leg irons and pinning him to the ground for over 11 minutes. A Virginia medical examiner determined homicide caused by positional and mechanical asphyxia with restraints as the cause of Otieno’s death. 

Dinwiddie County's chief prosecutor Ann Cabell Baskervill, issued indictments for seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees on second-degree murder charges. However, two of the hospital employee’s charges have since been dropped. 

Otieno suffered a mental health crisis on March 3, prompting his mother, Caroline, to call the police to conduct a wellness check. According to the police, he became physically combative towards officers while being evaluated at Parham Doctors’ Hospital in Henrico County. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Virginia Department of Health initiated an investigation last week into Otieno’s time at the Henrico hospital. 

Police took Otieno to Henrico County Jail West on three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism. The reason for his transfer to Central State Hospital on March 6 remains unclear. 

The video shows personnel attempting resuscitation efforts after Otieno went unresponsive. It took Dinwiddie County EMS 18 minutes to respond to Central State Hospital, where paramedics could not revive Otieno.

"He had an illness. He should have been doctored to, not treated with brutality," said civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Otieno’s funeral. "You know he couldn't fight back — he was handcuffed and shackled. And if we sound angry, it's because we are." 

Categories / Courts, Regional

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.