RICHMOND, Va. — Friends say Irvo Otieno, the 28-year-old Henrico man who died at Central State Hospital, had a passion for music and wrote and performed original songs.
Seven Henrico County Sheriff's deputies and three now former Central State employees were charged with second-degree murder in Otieno's in-custody death at the state-run mental hospital in Dinwiddie.
Allan Charles Chipman of Richmond said Otieno published several new songs on streaming platforms under the moniker “Young Vo," including two songs uploaded just days before his death.
IN-DEPTH TIMELINE: What we know about the events leading up to Irvo Otieno's death
Chipman recalled when Otieno got his start in music when the two met five years ago at a Henrico church.
"He really wanted to do music," Chipman said. "It's just cool to see someone say, 'This is what I'm set out to do.'"
The pair bonded over their love of music and Chipman said he soon took Otieno under his wing to mentor him and help produce one of his early songs.
“It was really a beautiful process,” Chipman said.
Caroline Ouko, Otieno's mother, told reporters Thursday that her son had found his passion: making hip-hop.
"He had found his thing — you know that feeling when you find your thing?” Ouko said. “He would go in his room and shut the door. And he had it — he was brilliant and creative and bright.”
But, the mother added, “All I'm left with is his voice.”
Chipman said the two worked together on Otieno’s song called “God’s Grace.” He remembered the recording process as being very raw.
Chipman said Otieno wrote that song while reflecting on his father dying days before his son's birthday and revealing his hopes and dreams for his life.
"I was surprised at how open he was about just things he'd been going through in his life" Chipman said. "The song was really about gratitude that he got to survive all that he had been through.”
Since his unexpected death, Chipman said he has listened to the song countless times. He said he never expected it would bring him comfort in the way it has.
"I'm glad that I was able to know him for the time that I did, and that he was willing to share that part of his life and that vision for his life," Chipman said.
Chipman saw through his music that Otieno understood the gift of life, and the importance of not taking it for granted. His music reflected on wanting to try to make better for his family, according to Chipman.
Just as music lives forever, Chipman hopes Otieno’s legacy will, too. He wants his friend to be remembered for his music, authentic nature, kind spirit and for caring for his family and community.
Ultimately, Chipman hopes Otieno legacy will extend to justice and greater care and compassion for people in similar situations.
"I’m hoping people can remember who he truly was and remember what he truly needed, which was care in a time of crisis," he said. "I just still can't believe it, you know."
COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Death of Irvo Otieno