Otieno family agrees to $8.5 million settlement
The family of a man who died while handcuffed and pinned to the floor for about 11 minutes as he was being admitted to a Virginia psychiatric hospital has reached an $8.5 million settlement with the state, county and the sheriff whose deputies were involved in restraining the man.
A judge approved the out-of-court wrongful death settlement Tuesday, according to an agreement filed in Henrico County Circuit Court.
Irvo Otieno, a 28-year-old Black man, died in March while handcuffed and pinned to the floor of Central State Hospital for about 11 minutes by seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees.
His death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. All 10 defendants were indicted on second-degree murder charges, but charges against two of the hospital employees were later dropped.
Otieno’s family has said he had a long history of mental health problems and was struggling to breathe while he was being held down. Some of the defendants’ lawyers have said that Otieno was combative and they were simply trying to restrain him.
The settlement agreement says the state, county and the sheriff have not admitted any liability and deny that their actions caused Otieno’s death, but have agreed to collectively pay the $8.5 million to Otieno’s family.
Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, said the governor pushed for a settlement “with the hope that doing so proactively and fairly might alleviate – in a small way – some of the suffering that Irvo’s mother and brother faced, recognizing that no settlement can take the place of a loved one.”
"Governor Youngkin remains committed to transforming the behavioral health system to ensure that those in crisis will receive the care they need and that they will receive it at the right time and in the right place,” Porter said in a statement.
Attorneys for Otieno's family, including prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Virginia attorney Mark Krudys, 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.”
Video from the hospital showed sheriff’s deputies and hospital staff attempting to restrain Otieno — who was in handcuffs and leg shackles — for about 20 minutes. For most of that time, Otieno was on the floor being held down by the group.
An autopsy conducted by the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was asphyxia, while the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
During court hearings and in statements, attorneys for several of the defendants had said Otieno was combative and the deputies were trying to restrain him.