Loved ones and Henrico NAACP calling for change following Irvo Otieno’s death

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:05 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2023 at 10:27 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - 28-year-old Irvo Otieno’s final moments are prompting a call to action from loved ones and Henrico County NAACP.

A friend of Otieno’s through bible study, Allan-Charles Chipman, says he hopes his friend’s death brings awareness to those suffering mental health issues.

“I knew him to be such a gentle, kind and loyal person,” Chipman said. “At first, knowing he’s not with us anymore is devastating enough, and then hearing what he endured, and as more information is coming out, it’s just devastating.”

He says proper crisis training is needed for health professionals.

“I’ve seen these things before, but never to someone that I knew and that I had a great amount of love for, so it’s really difficult to hear,” Chipman said.

Henrico NAACP also weighed in on Otieno’s death on Friday.

Vice President Monica Hutchinson says they’re working to help address inadequate funding for mental health resources while supporting calls for the Department of Justice Department to take over the investigation.

“Civil rights were violated. Mr. Otieno isn’t here. He isn’t here any longer. With the Department of Justice, we support that. We definitely support them coming in to investigate,” Hutchinson said.

Family attorney Ben Crump also called on the Department of Justice to take over the case on Thursday.

On March 3, Otieno was placed under an emergency custody order after Henrico Police responded to a burglary call.

He was taken to an area hospital, where police say he was arrested for assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct, and vandalism.

After a few days in custody, Otieno was transported from Henrico jail to Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie, where he died on March 6.

“Jail has never been the place for people who are having a mental health crisis, and it was not the place for Mr. Otieno,” Hutchinson said.

Central State Hospital denied NBC12′s request for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson released a statement saying in quote:

“The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Central State Hospital are fully cooperating with the Virginia State Police in this investigation and are working to ensure that Mr. Otieno’s family receives information about the tragic events at the hospital. The three hospital staff members who have been charged will be on administrative leave pending the results of the legal proceedings. We will respect the legal process while we and our staff continue to provide important care to the patients at Central State Hospital.”

As for the investigation, three hospital workers are in custody along with five Henrico Sheriff Deputies.

Two deputies are free on bond.

Another court hearing is set for Tuesday.