22yr old Nigerian college student Matthew Ajibade, (pictured) died in police custody and his family wants to know more about what led to his jail death.
Matthew died in an isolation cell, after he “became combative during the booking process,” according to a release from the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Savannah, Georgia. During the altercation, officials say, three deputies were injured, including a female sergeant who suffered a concussion and broken nose.
Ajibade’s family has hired Mark O’Mara, a CNN legal analyst who once represented George Zimmerman in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The attorney hopes to see “discourse of all available information as soon as possible,” he told CNN on Tuesday.
Ajibade was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago and was having a medical emergency at the time of his arrest and confinement, O’Mara said.
Savannah police arrested Ajibade on January 1 after receiving a call about a domestic disturbance.
When police arrived, they witnessed Ajibade holding a woman under a blanket, according to an incident report. Police uncovered the two and noticed that the woman’s “face was bruised, and her nose was bleeding,” the report says.
Officers ordered Ajibade to release the woman, but he did not comply, the report says, adding that when police tried to arrest Ajibade he proceeded to “resist apprehension in a violent manner.”
He was accused of domestic violence act, battery and obstruction of an officer. “The sergeant is still on medical leave. The other two remain on duty status,” said Chief Deputy Roy Harris.
A woman who he identified as his girlfriend tried to inform police of his mental health issues, O’Mara said.
“She also gave police a bottle of his medication,” the attorney told CNN.
The police report notes that officers received a prescription bottle from the alleged victim, but the name of the prescription has been redacted.
Once at the jail, officials say, Ajibade had to be restrained, during which he injured the three officers. He was then moved to an isolation cell due to his “dangerous behavior,” a police news release says.
Deputies conducted welfare checks on Ajibade and on their second check he was found nonresponsive, police say. First aid was administered by the jail’s medical unit staff. Despite CPR and attempts to restart his heart with a defibrillator, Ajibade could not be revived, according to the release.
It’s unclear how much of the event, if any, was captured on the jail’s surveillance system, or whether officers conducted a mental health evaluation before Ajibade’s death.
County officials declined CNN requests for an interview, citing the ongoing investigation. The sheriff’s office has requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an independent investigation. A GBI spokesperson said an autopsy had been conducted, but that a cause of death was pending toxicology reports.
The Chatham County District Attorney’s office said a criminal investigation is ongoing and the office will “handle the matter further, should it become necessary.”