Nine Georgia deputies have been fired following the death of a 22-year-old in an isolation cell in January.
Mathew Ajibade was handcuffed to a restraint chair on New Year’s Day after he allegedly hit his girlfriend and broke a deputy’s nose while in the midst of a bipolar episode. His family alleges police used a Taser on Ajibade while he was restrained in the chair, and then left him there unattended.
After his death, two deputies were suspended without pay pending the results of an investigation, Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence said in a statement Wednesday.
“Additionally, I have instituted numerous policy changes. Those changes include safeguards for those reported to suffer from a mental health illness as well as security cross checks,” he said.
Ajibade’s family, who has hired high-profile lawyer Mark O’Mara, says he was having a bipolar episode when his girlfriend called 911. The girlfriend had been struck and had blood on her cheek when Chatham County police arrived, a source said.
Instead of taking Ajibade to the hospital for mental health treatment, they arrested him and booked him in jail. What role, exactly, the deputies played in Ajibade’s death has not been made public; both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Affairs Division of the Sheriff’s Office are doing separate reviews.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement in January that Ajibade started fighting with deputies once he got to the Chatham County 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,” it said.
O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, says Ajibade was working two jobs and enrolled in college classes at the time of his death.
“A young man is dead, and he shouldn’t be,” he said. “The family deserves to know why as soon as possible.”