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Three former Virginia mental hospital staff suspected of murder in death of Black man arrested


Three former employees of a mental hospital in Virginia were arrested and charged with second-degree murder on Thursday, a prosecutor said, in the death of a Black man who was transported to the facility from jail earlier this month.

Irvo Otieno, 28, died on March 6 as he was being admitted to Central State Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia, according to Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill. Petersburg is in central Virginia, roughly 25 miles (40 km) south of Richmond.

The new slate of accusations brings the number of people charged in the death of Otieno to 10, including several sheriff’s deputies. It is the latest instance of a Black person dying during an encounter with law enforcement to capture national attention.

Darian Blackwell, 23, Wavie Jones, 34, and Sadarius Williams, 27, were taken into custody on Thursday, one day after murder charges were filed. The suspects are being held without bond at a jail in neighboring Brunswick County, prosecutors said.

Their cases will go before a grand jury in Dinwiddie next week.

A preliminary report by medical examiners said Otieno died of asphyxiation. Prosecutors say they have collected evidence and that they were told he was physically restrained during the intake process because he was “combative.”

“A key element of that evidence is the surveillance video from Central State Hospital that captures the intake process,” Cabell Baskervill said in a statement.

Officials have not ruled out making more charges or arrests.

Seven sheriffs deputies of Henrico County, Virginia, were also arrested and charged with second-degree murder in Otieno’s death.

Authorities have not said why Otieno was taken into custody or why he was being transferred to a mental health facility.

Otieno immigrated to the United States from Kenya when he was four, the New York Times reported.

The deputies were placed on administrative leave and the sheriff’s office will conduct an independent investigation into the incident, Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory said in a statement.

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