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The family of a Virginia man who died in police custody at a hospital agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against the state and county where he died.
Attorneys representing Irvo Noel Otieno’s family announced the settlement late Wednesday. The Associated Press reported it was for $8.5 million. The settlement was agreed to on Sept. 19, according to Henrico County Circuit Court records.
"The family is pleased that they were able to find a resolution outside of court in a manner that honors Irvo’s life,” the family's attorneys Ben Crump and Mark Krudys said.
Otieno, 28, died March 6 when seven Henrico County Sheriff’s deputies and three Central State Hospital employees restrained him on the floor of an intake unit at the Dinwiddie County state hospital. Dinwiddie Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill said deputies "smothered" Otieno to death after they pinned him face down for more than 10 minutes.
The case drew comparisons to the 2020 death of George Floyd while in custody of police in Minneapolis. Video from that arrest showed a police officer with his knee across the neck of a face-down Floyd, who could be heard muttering, “I can’t breathe.”
That utterance became a catchphrase of subsequent demonstrations over unequal treatment of Black and white suspects while in custody.
Video released of Otieno's death: Virginia grand jury indicts 10 suspects in Irvo Otieno's death; video shows him pinned to floor
In a statement to The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia, part of the USA TODAY Network, Henrico County spokesperson Ben Sheppard said the county offers "heartfelt condolences" to loved ones of Otieno. He added the claim against the commonwealth, county and county sheriff has been resolved.
"In accordance with the terms of the settlement, which requires confidentiality, Henrico County is unable to provide additional comment," Sheppard said.
All seven deputies and hospital personnel were indicted on second-degree murder charges related to Otieno’s death. Since then, the county commonwealth’s attorney’s office has dropped charges against two of the hospital personnel.
Otieno allegedly hospitalized without medication
Henrico County authorities arrested Otieno on March 3 for his alleged role in a burglary and placed him at Henrico Doctors' Hospital for mental health treatment.
Police alleged he became aggressive and was lodged at a local jail where his family claimed he didn't have access to medication. Otieno was then transferred on March 6 to the state hospital.
Henrico deputies claimed Otieno became combative and tried to escape when they got him to the hospital. His family said Otieno had been off his medication since being taken into custody and there was no way he could have been struggling.
Video from the intake room showed a shackled Otieno being extremely lethargic when he was brought into the hospital. After more than 10 minutes under the weight of the deputies and hospital personnel, Otieno stopped moving and died despite more than an hour’s worth of efforts to resuscitate him.
Family urges DOJ to prosecute case
Crump is representing the Otieno family alongside Krudys, a well-known civil rights lawyer in Virginia. Rev. Al Sharpton officiated at Otieno’s funeral on March 29 in Chesterfield County.
Otieno’s family also has been calling for the Department of Justice to get involved in the prosecutions of the case, citing the small size of the Dinwiddie prosecutor’s office. The former prosecutor in the case had said she would welcome federal involvement, but there has been no movement in that direction as of now.
Cabell Baskervill got direct warrants – warrants issued by the court instead of a magistrate – to have deputies and hospital personnel arrested. She stepped down in June to move to Europe.
Contributing: Associated Press.
Bill Atkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @BAtkinson_PI.
This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Family of Irvo Otieno receives settlement in wrongful-death lawsuit