Matthew Ajibade, 21, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago, his attorney said.
Family photo
Matthew Ajibade, 21, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago, his attorney said.

Story highlights

Matthew Ajibade was a 21-year-old Nigerian student who died in an isolation jail cell in Savannah on New Year's Day

Two ex-deputies and a contract health care worker charged with involuntary manslaughter

CNN —  

Two former Chatham County, Georgia, deputies and one other person have been indicted in the death of Matthew Ajibade, a 21-year-old Nigerian student who died in an isolation jail cell in Savannah on New Year’s Day.

Ajibade’s death was ruled a homicide by Chatham County Coroner William Wessinger, who stressed that homicide means only that another person is involved. It is not tantamount to murder, though it includes murder, he said.

Nine Chatham County deputies were fired in May in Ajibade’s death.

Two of the nine, Maxine Evans and Jason Kenny, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Kenny was also charged with aggravated assault and cruelty to an inmate.

Evans faces an additional charge of public records fraud. She’s accused of falsifying a restraint chair log, a document that logs the times a restrained inmate is monitored.

Gregory Brown, who was a contract health care worker, is facing involuntary manslaughter and public record fraud as well. The jury did not find evidence to indict the three on murder charges.

According to the autopsy report, Ajibade died from “blunt force trauma … a combination of abrasions, lacerations, skin injuries about the head and some other areas of the body.”

Ajibade “became combative” during the booking process, according to the Sheriff’s Office booking report. Authorities alleged three deputies were injured by Ajibade during a jail altercation, including a woman sergeant who suffered a concussion and a broken nose.

Family members have questioned the allegations, claiming Ajibade was a much-loved “geeky kid” who traveled to Savannah to study computer science. The 21-year-old was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago and was having a medical emergency at the time of his arrest and confinement, according to the family’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, who is also a CNN legal analyst.

Domestic disturbance call

Ajibade was arrested on January 1 after Savannah police received a domestic disturbance call.

Ajibade was holding a woman under a blanket when police arrived, according to an incident report. Once uncovered, the woman’s face was found to be bruised and her nose bleeding, the report says. Ajibade refused to release the woman when ordered to do so by police. When police tried to arrest him, the report says he resisted in a ” violent manner.”

He was accused of domestic violence, battery and obstruction of an officer.

A woman whom 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 said.

Officials said Ajibade had to be restrained once he was taken to the jail. It was during that time, they say, he injured the three officers. He was then moved to an isolation cell because of his “dangerous behavior,” a police news release said.

Isolation cell death

Deputies said they conducted welfare checks on Ajibade and on their second check, he was found nonresponsive, police said. He was given first aid by the jail’s medical unit staff. Ajibade could not be revived despite CPR and attempts to restart his heart with a defibrillator, according to the news release.

There’s no indication of 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.

The Sheriff’s Office requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an independent investigation. The Chatham County District Attorney’s office opened a criminal investigation into the case, which resulted in Wednesday’s indictments.