The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia fired nine deputies on Friday after investigations by its internal-affairs division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into the death of an inmate who was tased while restrained, WTOC reports.
Matthew Ajibade, 22, reportedly died while in an isolation cell on New Year’s Day. He had been handcuffed to a restraint chair after allegedly hitting his girlfriend and breaking a deputy’s nose while suffering from a bipolar episode, NBC News notes. His family, the site notes, claims that deputies used a Taser on him and then left him unattended.
The GBI had released a statement in January claiming that Ajibade started fighting with deputies once he got to the detention center. “Force was used to restrain Ajibade. Deputies were injured during the altercation. Ajibade was confined to a restraint chair and, subsequently, found unresponsive by deputies,” the statement read.
According to NBC, after Ajibade’s girlfriend called 911, instead of taking the young man to a hospital for mental-health care, the officers who arrived arrested and booked him. The role the deputies played in Ajibade’s death has not been made public. His cause of death has not been disclosed, either, the Savannah Morning News reports.
“The fact that nine people were fired tells us how terrible this incident was,” Will Claiborne, a legal counsel to Ajibade’s family, said in a statement after the news broke on Friday, according to the Morning News. “But the family still has no answers about what happened to Matthew. We again call on the sheriff and DA to be transparent while we seek justice for Matthew.”
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, who is examining the reports and other evidence from the GBI and the sheriff’s office, according to the Savannah Morning News, said that the case will go to a grand jury.
The family has hired attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. O’Mara said that Ajibade was working two jobs and was enrolled in college courses when he died, according to NBC. “A young man is dead, and he shouldn’t be,” O’Mara said. “The family deserves to know why as soon as possible.”
Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence has since instituted policy changes as a result of the investigation into Ajibade’s death, including a new booking procedure that ensures that on-site medics are immediately notified when an individual using medication is being booked, as well as a clear written policy for when a Taser may not be used, WTOC notes.