7 Virginia deputies arrested in connection with in-custody death

Seven Virginia deputies have been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Irvo Otieno while he was in custody, court records said.

The Henrico County Sheriff's deputies turned themselves into the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations on the morning of Tuesday, March 14, said Ann Cabell Baskervill, Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney in a statement.

All seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave during the murder investigation, said Henrico County Sheriff Alisa Gregory in a statement. They were being held without bond at Meherrin River Regional Jail in Alberta, Virginia, according to jail records.

The deputies were identified as Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Tabitha Renee Levere, 50; Brandon Edwards Rodgers, 48; and Kaivell Dajour Sanders, 30.

Otieno, 28, was being transported to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, for treatment on March 6 when he became combative, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police told CBS News. Central State is a maximum-security psychiatric facility run by the state. Jail records show that Otieno was placed under supervised custody and assigned to a medical or hospital treatment center.

The circumstances surrounding Otieno's transport to the hospital and death aren't clear, as the investigation is ongoing. Otieno was arrested on March 3, according to CBS affiliate WTVR. Henrico police spokesperson Lt. Matt Pecka said officers took Otieno to an "area hospital" for further evaluation where Otieno "became physically assaultive towards officers," WTVR reported.

Otieno was then arrested on charges of assaulting law enforcement, disorderly conduct, and vandalism and taken to Henrico Jail West, Pecka said.

Otieno's mother told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week that her son had suffered from periodic bouts of mental illness beginning in his late teens, but said he did not have a record of violence. She also told said that while her son had been brought to the jail during the weekend, he wouldn't be provided medication to control his mental health issues until he saw a jail doctor on Monday.

When Otieno was scheduled to see the jail doctor that Monday, he was taken to Central State Hospital, where Virginia State police said he was restrained and later died.

The state medical examiner is working to determine Otieno's cause and manner of death.

Jails have struggled to manage inmates with mental health issues. Jail deaths — often related to untreated mental health issues — have jumped in recent years. In Virginia, the problem is particularly acute.

In 2021, there were 77 in-custody deaths reported in the state, almost double from the previous year, according to a report by the Virginia Board of Local and Regional Jails. Seven of those deaths happened because the jails didn't meet minimum standards, and six of them were in jails that didn't have the 24-hour medical care that state regulations require, the report found.

"It's a really chaotic environment," said Daniel Mistak, the Director of Health Care Initiatives for Justice-Involved Populations for Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, a not-for-profit based in Oakland, California that provides nationwide oversight and monitoring for correctional health systems.

Jails don't have the resources or training to manage mental health crises for many people going through the booking system, said Mistak. Over the weekend there is limited ability for jails, who already have acute medical staff shortages, to manage and treat inmates with unmet mental health needs, he said.

"If someone is at the beginning of a mental health crisis being booked into jail is the perfect way to accelerate the crisis," said Mistak.

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