Family of Black man who died while restrained in a mental health facility agrees to $8.5 million settlement

By Andy Rose and Mitchell McCluskey, CNN

(CNN) — The family of a Black man who died after being pinned to the ground in handcuffs and leg irons for 12 minutes at a Virginia mental health facility has agreed to a $8.5 million settlement in their lawsuit against the state, county and sheriff, according to court documents.

A judge approved the settlement on Tuesday. It was filed in the Henrico County Circuit Court, according to documents obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The family of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno sued the commonwealth of Virginia, Henrico County and the Henrico County Sheriff after his death in March, which the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia ruled a homicide by asphyxiation. Otieno’s family has said he was in the midst of a mental health crisis when he was being processed at the hospital.

Seven sheriff’s deputies and one hospital worker still face pending trials for second-degree murder charges in the case. They have not yet entered pleas.

Henrico County police officers first encountered Otieno on March 3 after they responded to a possible burglary and placed him under an emergency custody order. Under Virginia law, a person may be placed under an emergency custody order if there are concerns they may harm themselves or others as a result of mental illness.

The officers took Otieno to a hospital, where authorities said he became “physically assaultive” towards officers. Police took him to Henrico County Jail and he was booked. He was transferred to the mental health facility in Dinwiddie County on March 14 and died during the intake process after he became “combative,” according to the state’s attorney.

Surveillance video showed multiple security officers pinning Otieno to the ground for 12 minutes. Additional video showed he had previously been kept in a holding cell at the Henrico County Jail, where he was naked and pepper-sprayed by deputies, according to prosecutors.

As part of the settlement agreement, the defendants are not admitting any liability and deny their actions caused Otieno’s death, but agree to pay $8.5 million.

“Henrico County continues to offer its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Otieno,” Ben Sheppard, a spokesperson for Henrico County, said in a statement to CNN. “A claim brought by the family of Irvo Otieno against Henrico County, the Henrico County Sheriff and the Commonwealth of Virginia has been resolved.”

Sheppard declined to provide further comment, citing a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement.

The Henrico County Sheriff’s Office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Otieno family lawyers Ben Crump and Mark Krudys said the family was “pleased that they were able to find a resolution outside of court in a manner that honors Irvo’s life,” the statement reads.

Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, called Otieno’s death a “profound tragedy.”

“The Governor pushed for a settlement with the hope that doing so proactively and fairly might alleviate – in a small way – some of the suffering that Irvo’s mother and brother faced, recognizing that no settlement can take the place of a loved one,” the statement reads.

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