Student's Death in Police Custody Ruled a Homicide

21-year-old in Georgia found in cell; 9 deputies fired
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2015 11:33 AM CDT
Stock photo   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Another high-profile case with allegations of police brutality has surfaced, this time out of Savannah, Ga. The county coroner has ruled the death of local student and 21-year-old Nigerian native Matthew Ajibade a homicide, reports CNN. Ajibade died in police custody on New Year's Day following his arrest on domestic violence charges. Authorities say he resisted arrest and then got combative during booking, with one female deputy suffering a broken nose and a concussion. Deputies put Ajibade in an isolation cell strapped to a chair, and he was later found unresponsive, reports the AP. The coroner's report lists blunt force trauma as the cause of death, and nine deputies have been fired.

"There were abrasions around the head and a little bit of blood inside the skull case," says Chatham County Coroner Bill Wessinger. Both stories point out that in this context, homicide means only that another person was involved in the death, and that it wasn't necessarily a crime. Yesterday, Sheriff Al St. Lawrence avoided the specifics of the case but defended the use of force when necessary, reports GPB, saying, "I'm not running a summer camp here; I'm running a prison. And I intend to run it as it should be run." The local district attorney hasn't decided yet whether to file criminal charges. Attorney Mark O'Mara, who is representing Ajibade's family, says a girlfriend told arresting officers that Ajibade had mental health problems and gave them his medication.

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