‘He got cruelty instead of care’: Friends of Otieno can’t bring themselves to watch footage

Loved ones and strangers alike say they’re shaken by what they saw in the video clip.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 4:48 PM EDT
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DINWIDDIE, Va. (WWBT) - As the footage of Irvo Otieno’s death makes national headlines, people who knew Otieno are sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Loved ones and strangers alike say they’re shaken by what they saw in the video clip released Tuesday.

This comes as a small group of protestors hit the pavement outside Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County, calling for justice and change.

Allan-Charles Chipman, who knew Otieno well, says he cannot bring himself to watch the footage.

“When he was talking about what he wanted his life to be, I never thought that a couple of years later in his life would be ended by the system,” Chipman said.

Chipman and Otieno became friends years ago in bible study. They bonded through a shared love for music.

“I will remember him for his gentle character and kind spirit,” he said. “It’s bad enough to lose a friend, but to lose a friend under such cruel conditions that he endured on the last moments of his life. It’s been really hard and surreal.”

He says he is mentally and emotionally unable to watch the surveillance footage of his friend’s final moments.

“I don’t make a habit of watching my friends be lynched, in my opinion, but I think it’s important to look at the reality of what this system put my brother through,” Chipman said.

Chipman says he applauds the family for having the bravery to approve its release to the public, saying it lays bare the reality of a system prioritizing cruelty over care.

“He needed help. He was in a place of crisis, and he got cruelty instead of care, and we need to focus on looking into the system that failed him versus trying to find flaws in his character that people may try to find.”

Robert Barnette, president of the Virginia NAACP, echoed that same sentiment.

“There needs to be a better method with regards to use of force, especially when they are dealing with a mental health crisis,” said Barnette.

He says given the recent history, we need to take these situations more seriously and handle them more delicately, saying Otieno’s death was 100% preventable.

“I would have thought that we would have learned from George Floyd or Tyre Nichols, and so it’s it’s just heartbreaking that this incident occurred,” Barnette said.

Chipman says he hopes to watch it eventually, but right now, he is focused on remembering his friend for his incredible character, gentle soul and kind spirit.