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Attorneys question why Central State didn't take initiative of Otieno's intake process: 'Quite surprising'

Posted at 5:23 PM, Mar 21, 2023

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- Defense attorneys are raising questions about the role of Central State Hospital staff during the moments leading up to the death of Irvo Otieno.

Caleb Kershner, the defense attorney for Henrico County Sheriff's deputy Randy Boyer, who is charged with second-degree murder in Otieno's death, told a judge on Tuesday that there was no Central State staff to accept Otieno's transfer when deputies arrived at the hospital on March 6.

Deputies waited outside for 20 minutes before bringing Otieno inside the facility.

Video from inside the hospital shows deputies bringing Otieno into a hospital admissions room around 4:19 p.m. and they begin to restrain him. The video appears to show the medical staff who were in the room at the time did not immediately provide Otieno assistance or medication.

About nine minutes later, some Central State employees join deputies in holding Otieno down on the ground.

“For whatever reason, while in the medical facility, the medical facility was not willing, or at least was not taking the initiative, to take control of him which is ultimately their responsibility," Kershner said during an interview with CBS 6 Tuesday. “So the officers who were there had to hold him and constrain him, given not only his resistance previously, but out of concern for others around given his mental state.”

Kershner said in court, during a bond hearing for his client, that it took medical staff between 15-20 minutes to take over the intake process.

“They were waiting for the medical team to come in and take over this," Kershner said during the interview. "I don't know if it's unusual, but it is quite surprising that once they bring him in and execute the [temporary detention order] that no one actually came and took over from the facility, which is their responsibility.”

CBS 6 sent multiple questions to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, which is the state agency that oversees Virginia's public psychiatric hospitals including Central State.

We asked if proper protocol and procedures were followed during the intake if it's typical for law enforcement to be involved at the level they were, and at what point in the process does the patient become the responsibility of the hospital.

As of Tuesday evening, we are still waiting for a response.

Last week, Carey Bowen, the defense attorney for accused Henrico deputy Jermaine Branch, commented on how Virginia State Police were notified of the incident. Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Baskervill said state police weren't called to the hospital until three hours after Otieno's death.

“Whose responsibility is it to notify state police or whoever about what happened? As I understand it, once you bring someone into the doors of Central State, Central state has control of the person at that point," Bowen said during an interview. "I don't know that I would have seen my duty to call any law enforcement. I would have thought that Central State was doing that. They had the body and they would call and do what they had to do."

On Monday, Governor Glenn Youngkin said he would review the video of Otieno's death along with hospital protocols.

“Do you believe that facilities like Central State Hospital have enough oversight to ensure that staff are following proper protocols and have proper training to deal with those in crisis?” reporter Tyler Layne asked the governor.

“There are protocols, and we will review to ensure they are being followed," Youngkin responded. “The first thing we have to see is what happened in this circumstance and as I’ve said, there’s an ongoing investigation. I do know that the oversight of facilities across Virginia has protocols and I know the team that does it. I know they give it all they have.”

On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted three Central State employees, along with seven Henrico deputies, with second-degree murder in Otieno's death.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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