Cause of death ruled homicide for man who died in Chatham County Detention Center

Cause of death ruled homicide for man who died in Chatham County Detention Center

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The cause of death of a 22-year-old who died at the Chatham County Detention Center has been ruled a homicide, according to the Chatham County coroner. The manner of death was blunt force trauma.

Matthew Ajibade, 22, died after he was retrained and placed in an isolation cell after he was combative and injured three CCSO deputies on New Year's day.

A female sergeant suffered a concussion and broken nose, and two male deputies suffered injuries consistent with an affray. Ajibade was arrested and booked into the Chatham County Detention Center after he was arrested by the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Dept. He was accused of domestic violence act, battery and obstruction of justice.

Ajibade was placed in an isolation cell due to his dangerous behavior, and when deputies performed their second welfare check, he appeared unresponsive.

Medical staff performed CPR and administered defibrillation while preparing Ajibade for transport to Memorial.

Nine Chatham County Sheriff's deputies have been fired after an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into the death of Ajibade on Jan. 1.

"For at least two hours, Matthew was in a holding cell after apparently having sustained significant blunt force trauma, after apparently having been tased while in full restraints," said Ajibade family attorney Will Claiborne.

The sheriff's office hasn't confirmed whether Ajibade was tased while in a restraint chair. But shortly after he died, Sheriff Al St. Lawrence sent out a memo reminding deputies: "When they're in full restraints, they will not be tased. Anyone who violates that rule is out of here."

As to the specifics of the Ajibade's case, St. Lawrence won't comment until a grand jury meets to decide whether his deputies should be charged in Ajibade's death.

"Then I'll talk about it," St. Lawrence said. During a news conference with Chatham County Sheriff Al St Lawrence on Thursday afternoon, the sheriff said he wasn't going to talk about the case.

"I'm not going to discuss the Ajibade case. I have a commitment to the DA and the grand jury," he said.

When asked if he feels like his deputies ever use to much force he said, "We're looking at policy and procedures...and we may have made some errors."

After Sheriff Al St Lawrence spoke, an impromptu conference was held with the Ajibade family attorney. He said he learned of the death being ruled a homicide from blunt force trauma from WTOC.

In Thursday's news conference, St. Lawrence defended the use of tasers in the jail, saying that many inmates are violent, and on average 41 deputies are injured at the Chatham County Jail each month.

"We try to handle them the best we can without the use of a taser," he said.

WTOC's Conny Cooper requested a list of everyone who was tased inside the Chatham County Jail from the Georgia Sunshine Act.

On the average day, the Chatham County Jail has about 1,400 inmates. Last year, tasers were used on those inmates 192 times.

WTOC wanted to compare and got more numbers from our neighbors to the north, Augusta, where the Richmond County Jail has an average daily inmate count of 994, but only had 33 tasings last year, less than a fifth of the tasings in the Chatham County Jail.

Since Ajibade's death, tasings have gone way down in Chatham County. There have been only 13 so far this year, roughly the same number as the Richmond County jail.

The Chatham County chief deputy pulled had since pulled all tasers from use at the Chatham County Jail. They've since been re-introduced, but only after officers underwent extensive training.

Right now the sheriff's office has private consultants reviewing all aspects of the jail's operations.

The Chatham County grand jury meets June 24 to decide whether charges should be brought in this case.

Copyright 2015 WTOC. All rights reserved.