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7 Virginia deputies charged with murder in death of man who prosecutors say was ‘smothered’ at hospital

Seven Virginia sheriff’s deputies have been charged with murder in the death of a man who was arrested and physically restrained while he was hospitalized this month, officials said.

Seven Henrico County deputies have been charged in the March 6 murder of 28-year-old Ervo Otieno, the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.

The prosecutor’s office said that Otieno had to be admitted to a hospital, that he was physically restrained and that he died during the consummation process.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskerville told a court hearing Wednesday that “the cause of death was suffocation, thanks to the presence of at least seven people, including the defendant, and holding him down.” Broadcast by Richmond’s NBC affiliate WWBT.

Ervo Otieno.
Ervo Otieno.Cruddis Law Firm, plc

The medical examiner’s office in Richmond did not immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours Wednesday about the cause and manner of death.

The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office went to Central State Hospital at 3:58 p.m. to admit Otieno as a patient, the prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutor’s office said, “State investigators were told that he became combative during the intake process. The physically restrained Otieno died during the intake process.”

A lawyer for Otieno’s family said he had been treated cruelly.

Mark Cruddis said, “The family is truly saddened to learn of the brutal nature of Ervo’s death and his inhumane treatment in the hours before his death.” “The public and experienced mental health professionals alike will be appalled when the facts of this case are fully known.”

Ervo Otieno, left, with his brother Leon Ochieng and their mother Caroline Ouko.
Erwo Otieno, left, with his brother, Leon Ochieng, and their mother, Caroline Ouko.Cruddis Law Firm, plc

Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Allen Bramble, 37; Jermaine LaVar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Deese, 43; Tabitha Renee LaVere, 50; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; The prosecutor’s office said, and 30-year-old Kayle Dajour Sanders was charged.

Not all of the deputies who were charged had attorneys listed for them in online court records. Lawyers listed for four of them did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night, or they declined to comment.

Carrie Bowen, who represents the branch, said her client has been with the department for 24 years.

According to WWBT’s video, “none of them are known to be bullies.”

Henrico police said in a statement that Otieno was arrested and charged with assaulting Henrico County police officers at Parham Doctors Hospital after responding to a possible burglary call on March 3.

The department said that Henrico police officers placed Otieno under an “emergency detention order”. Virginia law states that such orders are used in cases of mental illness.

At the hospital, Otieno “became physically aggressive towards the officers who arrested him” and took him to a local jail, which is managed by the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office, where he was charged with multiple assaults.

Baskerville’s statement said personnel from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office took him to Central State Hospital south of Richmond just before 4 p.m. on March 6 to collect him. At approximately 7:30 the state police were called to investigate her death.

Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave.

“As an office, we are cooperating fully with the Virginia State Police’s investigation,” Gregory said in a statement. “Separately, we are conducting our own independent review of the incident.”

The Henrico Fraternal Order of Police Lodge described Otieno’s death as tragic and said it was awaiting further details.

“We support our brothers and sisters, and look forward to a quick resolution that clears their names,” the union said in a statement on Tuesday.

The seven delegates were arrested through a legal tactic known as “criminal information,” which Baskerville, the Dinwiddie County commonwealth’s attorney, said was rare in Virginia.

The process “is for the purpose of protecting other Henrico County Jail residents. It allows for the appropriate and prompt removal of these seven individuals from their current capacities,” she said in Tuesday’s statement.



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