No, it didn’t happen in Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib – this beating, torture and murder of an inmate took place right in the United States.
Matthew Ajibade was a 22-year-old college student who had his whole life ahead of him. That was before he was found dead in restraints in a Georgia county jail on New Years Day. The Georgia coroner assigned to perform his autopsy has ruled that Ajibade died from police beating him to death.
Specifically, the coroner’s report indicates several blunt-force injuries to Ajibade’s head and upper body. The young man’s death was officially ruled a homicide.
Investigators had refused to comment on how Matthew Ajibade died. For months the best they would say is that it is an “open criminal inquiry” and thus they cannot comment.
But it was pretty clear from the outset that someone had murdered the young man. His body had been found on New Year’s Day strapped into a restraining chair. He was locked inside an isolation cell at the Chatham County jail and left there to die from his injuries.
Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence tried to mitigate any public outrage by firing nine deputies who are said to have been involved in Ajibade’s death. District Attorney Meg Heap has even announced that she will seek an indictment from a grand jury.
But with the coroner’s announcement, it will be hard to keep members of the community quiet or calm any longer. This is the first official announcement indicating and admitting the deputies beat this young man to death.
Attorneys for Ajibade’s parents, located in Hyattsville, Maryland, learned of this coroner’s information on the death certificate. Dr. Bill Wessinger, the Chatham County coroner, has additionally confirmed the findings in a phone interview with the Associated Press.
Wessinger said it was the only logical conclusion he could make after studying the results of an autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. That autopsy was never made public, but it clearly states that Ajibade suffered “about five injuries that were described in their report,” Wessinger explained. “There were abrasions around the head and a little bit of blood inside the skull case.”
Ajibade also suffered severe injuries to his upper body, the coroner added.
“My recollection is none of them by themselves would have necessarily been fatal,” Wessinger said.
Ajibade’s family said the police never gave them a copy of the death certificate. Instead, someone leaked a photograph of it on social media. That’s how they found out about it. The police say they do not have any idea who leaked the certificate. They also had no comment as to why the death certificate was never given to Ajibade’s family.
Florida attorney Mark O’Mara, who represents the family, said “It’s really disgusting to me. They owe anybody the common decency of letting them know first how their son died.”
Attorneys for Ajibade’s family say the Savannah College of Art and Design student suffered from bipolar disorder. His girlfriend gave the police a bottle of his prescription medication when they arrested him.
“I’m sure he was flailing,” O’Mara said of the circumstances surrounding the young man’s death. “They got control of him and beat the (expletive) out of him to get control of him.”
Ajibade was a “geeky” college student, by all accounts, who had gone to Savannah to study computer science. The county coroner ruled his death a homicide, citing blunt force trauma.
As Ajibade died and was still strapped in to a restraint chair, the police were busy falsifying logbooks and failing to monitor him.
It has been nearly a year since Ajibade’s death first captured national headlines, and the Ajibade family is still fighting for the truth.
Nine Chatham County sheriff’s deputies have been fired after a probe conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, that indicted two former deputies and a jailhouse nurse on charges that included involuntary manslaughter, cruelty to an inmate, and public records fraud.
But a jury acquitted two deputies of the killing, but convicted them of lesser charges.
Former deputies Jason Kenny and Maxine Evans were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Matthew Ajibade, 21, who the coroner said died of blunt force trauma.
Former nurse Greg Brown was charged with involuntary manslaughter as well, but Chatham County Superior Court Judge James Bass Jr. ordered the charge to be dropped.
The Associated Press reports “Kenny was found guilty of cruelty to an inmate while Evans was found guilty of public records fraud and three counts of perjury for her false grand jury testimony regarding the restraint chair log, said O’Mara.”
As well, “Brown was found guilty of making a false statement, said O’Mara, who represented neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman during his 2013 trial in the death of a 17-year old Trayvon Martin in Florida.”
“I am not surprised by the verdict,” Ajibade’s cousin Chris Oladapo said.
“I knew that that same system that failed Matthew would not be the system that got him justice,” he added.
(Article by M. David and Reagan Ali)