SAVANNAH, Ga. » A coastal Georgia sheriff fired nine of his deputies Friday in connection with the death of a 22-year-old college student found dead in restraints after he was booked into the county jail.
Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence said the terminations were based on results of an internal investigation as well as one by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into the Jan. 1 death of Matthew Ajibade, an artist and college student who had been arrested on domestic violence charges following a fight with his girlfriend.
The sheriff released no findings from the investigations into Ajibade’s death, which is still considered an open case as prosecutors weigh possible criminal charges. However, the sheriff’s office did provide a Feb. 9 memo reminding deputies that they were prohibited from using stun guns on detainees already in restraints.
"Do not utilize any conducted electrical weapon to gain control of a detainee who is in full restraints while in a restraint chair," the memo said, noting that detainees with both their hands and feet bound were to be considered fully restrained.
Sheriff’s officials have previously said Ajibade was placed in a restraining chair in an isolation cell after he became combative during booking and injured three deputies. One deputy suffered a concussion and a broken nose, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities have declined to publicly release the report on Ajibade’s autopsy, citing the open investigation.
The fired deputies include two supervisors — Cpl. Maxine Evans and Cpl. Jason Kenny — who were suspended after Ajibade died. The Associated Press could not find a phone number for either deputy Friday evening.
"The sheriff deeply regrets the death of Mr. Ajibade," said a statement released by the sheriff’s office Friday. It said new policies implemented since Ajibade’s death include security measures to audit the use of stun guns at the jail as well as booking procedures to ensure jail medical staff are notified immediately when a detainee requiring medication arrives.
Police arrested Ajibade after responding to a call and finding his girlfriend with a bruised face and a bloody nose. Savannah-Chatham County police said Ajibade was holding the woman and refused to release her when officers tried to separate the couple. The woman gave police a bottle of pills prescribed to Ajibade before they took him away. Attorneys for Ajibade’s family say he suffers from bipolar disorder.
"The fact that nine people were fired tells us how terrible this incident was," Will Claiborne, an attorney for Ajibade’s family, said in a written statement. "But the family still has no answers about what happened to Matthew."
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said earlier this week that her office is reviewing investigators’ findings. She did not indicate when she expects a decision on whether to bring criminal charges.