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VIDEOS: Leading US civil rights lawyer takes up case of Kenyan man who died in the hands of police



Ben Crump, a renowned US civil rights attorney, is now leading a team of lawyers who are seeking justice for the family of a Kenyan man who died in the hands of Sheriff’s deputies in Henrico County, Virginia.

At a press briefing on Thursday, the family of the late Irvo Otieno, a mental health patient who was killed while in sheriff’s custody described in painful and excruciating details how he perished while shackled and handcuffed, and had the life squeezed out of him.

His mother and his brother, flanked by family members, supporters and lawyers, choking back on their emotion, detailed what they saw on surveillance video as Otieno was brutally  assaulted at the Henrico jail and then later at Central State Hospital after he was taken into custody on March 3, and then his death about 72 hours later.

“It was torture. My son was tortured,” said Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, at a news conference outside the Dinwiddie County’s prosecutor’s office.

Crump specializes in civil rights and catastrophic personal injury cases such as wrongful death lawsuits. His practice has focused on cases such as Trayvon MartinMichael BrownGeorge FloydKeenan Anderson and Tyre Nichols, people affected by the Flint water crisis, and the plaintiffs behind the 2019 Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit alleging the company’s talcum powder product led to ovarian cancer diagnoses. Due to his legal reputation, he has been referred to as “Black America’s attorney general.”


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The family spoke to the media just after the prosecutor’s office announced that three more people have been charged in Otieno’s death. They have been identified as employees of Central State Hospital: Darian M. Blackwell, 23, of Petersburg; Wavie L. Jones, 34, of Chesterfield County; and Sadarius D. Williams, 27, of North Dinwiddle.

Irvo N. Otieno
Irvo N. Otieno


Otieno’s  family has criticized the authorities for “treating him as a criminal rather than a mentally ill patient. ”


“Words can’t describe what I just saw today,” said Otieno’s brother, Leon Ochieng.  “What I saw was a lifeless human being … with no regard for his human life.”

“I witnessed a homicide,” he added. “I did not think in my lifetime I’d witness my own blood brother being murdered.”

Richmond attorney Mark Krudys
Richmond attorney Mark Krudys

The family and their legal team portrayed a gruesome scene of Otieno being beaten at the jail while naked and then later at the hospital as sheriff deputies piled on top of him — even though Otieno posed no threat and was not combative — while other officers watched on but did nothing.

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“What we just viewed on the videos was a commentary on how inhuman law enforcement officials treat people who are having a mental health crisis as criminals — rather than treating them as people who are in need of help. I mean it was inhumane to see how they treated Irvo,” said Ben Crump, the nationally recognized civil rights attorney who joined Otieno’s attorney Mark Krudys on Wednesday.

“In the videos … he was never confrontational with them, he is not posing a threat,” Crump said.

Irvo N. Otieno with his family
Irvo N. Otieno (right), is pictured with his older brother, Leon Ochieng, and their mother, Caroline Ouko

“He needed mental health help, he needed help from physicians – not the brutality of correctional officers,” Krudys said.

In describing was on the video, Krudys described how Otieno was taken from the jail to Central State.  “He’s carried out by the arms and legs, almost upside down…they carry him like an animal into the vehicle. He’s almost lifeless. Then he’s transported to eventually Central State Hospital. Lights and sirens. Why? If there really was an important medical event that was occurring….why wasn’t he taken to the hospital, literally one minute away.”

Krudys said the footage of Otieno at the hospital was unsettling.

“I was not really prepared so see this — it was a circumstance where you see seven deputies.. And the force of them, you can see they’re putting their back into it. Every part of [Otieno’s] his body is being pushed down with absolute brutality. You cannot even see his image all the time.”

Krudys said he and Crump looked at each as the video played.  “And we kept on saying … why? Why is this occurring? He’s in handcuffs and leg irons at that point. He poses no danger.”

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As the family addressed the media, their supporters cried out several times, “Justice for Irvo” as the lawyers called for federal investigations.

All three, who surrendered to authorities Thursday morning, were charged with second-degree murder.

In 2020, Crump became the attorney for the families of Ahmaud ArberyBreonna TaylorGeorge Floyd, and Jacob Blake. In 2021, he became the attorney for a passenger in the car with Winston Boogie Smith and for the family of Daunte Wright. Ongoing cases surrounding their killings or injuries led to protests against police brutality in America as well as internationally.[8]



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