Why Henrico Police won't release video, audio, and reports that could shed light on Irvo Otieno's arrest

Posted at 11:54 AM, Mar 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-24 16:44:08-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Henrico County Police Department said it would not provide CBS 6 with detailed police reports of what happened on March 2 and March 3, 2023, when officers responded to Irvo Otieno's western Henrico home.

The police department said those reports were exempt from mandatory disclosure under Virginia's public records laws.

Henrico Police also declined to provide audio of the 9-1-1 calls placed on March 2 and March 3 related to Otieno.

Again, the department stated those records did not have to be released under Virginia code.

DETAILED TIMELINE: What we know about the events leading up to Irvo Otieno's death

On March 2, 2023, someone called police at 4:03 p.m. to report he was "concerned about his neighbor's behavior," according to Henrico Police.

That neighbor was identified as Otieno and the call was re-classified as a mental health problem, per police.

At 11:34 a.m. the next morning, Henrico Police said they responded to a call from another one of Otieno's neighbors.

That neighbor said she "believed her home was being burglarized."

Henrico Police said members of the county's Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) responded to the scene to assist the officers.

Police identified Otieno as a potential suspect, but based on their interaction with him that morning, placed him under an emergency custody order (ECO) and took him to Parham Doctors' Hospital where the "Crisis Receiving Center" is located.

It was there that police said Otieno became "physically assaultive" toward officers. Police then charged him and took him to Henrico Jail West.

His family says he was denied access to needed medication during his time there.

Otieno stayed at the jail until Monday, March 6, when he was then transported to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County.

He died at the state-run psychiatric hospital after 10 Henrico Sheriff's Deputies and three now former Central State employees held him down on the ground of the receiving room floor.

_Irvo Otieno final moments.png

Virginia's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Otieno's cause and manner of death remained pending.

Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill has said Otieno died from asphyxiation and charged the sheriff's deputies and hospital employees with second-degree murder.

Henrico Police previously denied CBS 6's request for the body camera footage from the officers who responded to Otieno's home on March 3, took him to the hospital, and transported him to jail, citing the same Virginia code.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officer for the police department said some of the records relate to a criminal investigation, and some of them are noncriminal in nature, however, they were all exempt from mandatory disclosure.

"To the extent that the requested records are noncriminal in nature, they are exempt from disclosure because they contain information of a personal and medical nature that would jeopardize the privacy of an individual," Leah Coward, a Henrico County Police Department FOIA Specialist, said.

CBS 6 asked if the law still applied if a person was deceased or if immediate family members of the deceased individual could request the records.

Coward said the law "does not differentiate between people who are alive or deceased. Further, it does not provide a right for an individual’s immediate family members, if they are deceased, to obtain the records being withheld."

Henrico Police also declined to provide a list of officers who responded to Otieno's home who are a part of the county's Crisis Intervention Team, as well as a list of their staff who are a part of the county's CIT team, citing they are exempt from mandatory disclosure.

Nearly three hours of video related to Otieno's death were made public this week by the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

One video showed Henrico Sheriff's deputies' interactions with Otieno at Henrico Jail West on the morning of March 6.

A second video showed Otieno's arrival at Central State Hospital and the events that led to his death.

Defense attorneys have said that the seven deputies and three hospital employees were trying to restrain Otieno after he became combative during the transfer process from a Henrico jail to the hospital. All ten charged with second-degree murder have been granted bond and have pre-trial hearings scheduled in court in April and May.

Otieno’s family said he had longstanding mental health struggles and was brutally mistreated at the hospital and in jail.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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