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The Progress-Index

Governor, police union weigh in on deputies' arrests following death at Central State Hospital

By Bill Atkinson, The Progress-Index,

2023-03-15
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RICHMOND – Gov. Glenn Youngkin has weighed in on the arrests of seven Henrico County sheriff’s deputies in the death of a man at Central State Hospital, asking citizens to “respect the process” as it plays out in court.

“This case is now in the judicial system with the Virginia State Police leading the investigation,” Youngkin said late Tuesday in an email to The Progress-Index. “Now that the Commonwealth’s Attorney has brought charges, I ask Virginians to respect the process as it continues.”

The governor’s statement is an apparent request to discourage anti-police protests that took place in Richmond and other cities three years ago in the wake of the killings of two Black people at the hands of police in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky. Virginia Democrats used that energy to push numerous civil-rights reforms, including the ban of no-knock search warrants in Virginia and the eventual removal of Confederate statues from Richmond’s iconic yet divisive Monument Avenue.

His remarks came hours after Dinwiddie commonwealth’s attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill announced she was pursuing second-degree murder charges against the deputies in the March 6 death of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno, a native of Kenya who was living in Henrico County. Henrico deputies had taken Otieno into custody and were admitting him to CSH when he reportedly became violent and had to be put in restraints. Shortly thereafter, he died.

Six of the seven deputies are from Henrico County; the seventh is from Chesterfield County. They have been identified as Randy Joseph Boyer, 57; Dwayne Alan Bramble, 37; Jermaine Lavar Branch, 45; Bradley Thomas Disse, 43; Tabitha Rene Levere, 50; Brandon Edward Rodgers, 48; and Kalyell Dajour Sanders, 30.

Following their arrest Tuesday, the seven were booked into the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Brunswick County and held without bond. Henrico sheriff Alisa Gregory said all of them are on administrative leave pending the outcome of their cases.

Meanwhile, the Henrico Fraternal Order of Police took to Facebook to say it stands behind the seven deputies.

“Policing in America today is difficult, made even more so by the possibility of being criminally charged while performing their duty,” the FOP statement read.

The FOP criticized Baskervill for using a rare but allowable legal process where the deputies were not charged through warrants or indictments but through something called “criminal information.” The process, it claimed, “allows for little outside scrutiny from impartial judges or magistrates.”

The group chastised the prosecutor for releasing “little information regarding these charges,” the state police for not completing its investigation into Otieno’s death, and the state medical examiner’s office for not releasing cause or manner of death.

“With these things in mind, and cognizant of every accused’s presumption of innocence, we support our brothers and sisters, and hope for a quick resolution that clears their names,” the statement concluded.

Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at batkinson@progress-index.com or on Twitter at @BAtkinson_PI.

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