A 22-year-old college student who was arrested after a domestic violence dispute and later died in restraints inside a Georgia cell on New Year’s Day, died from blunt-force injuries, and his death has been ruled a homicide.
According to the Associated Press, Matthew Ajibade’s parents have being searching for answers for months about exactly what happened that led to his death. Investigators have cited an “open criminal inquiry” as the reason they were unable to speak to the family about their son’s death.
AP notes that Ajibade, who had bipolar disorder, was arrested after a domestic altercation with his girlfriend Jan. 1. Ajibade’s girlfriend reportedly gave the officers Ajibade’s medication after telling them about his disorder. According to police, Ajibade, who lived in Maryland but was attending school in Georgia at the Savannah College of Art and Design, became combative once they arrived at the jail, and he was placed in restraints and put into a cell. He was later found dead the same day in the same cell.
“Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence last month fired nine deputies in connection with the death, and District Attorney Meg Heap has said she plans to seek an indictment from a grand jury,” AP reports.
Florida attorney Mark O’Mara, who represents the family, told AP that although Ajibade’s death certificate is dated May 8, no one told his parents that an official document had been filed or that the criminal inquiry had been closed and a cause of death determined. O’Mara says that the family learned the news after a photo of the death certificate appeared on social media.
“Under Georgia law, copies of death certificates can be obtained by relatives and their attorneys, but not by the general public,” according to AP, which added that O’Mara and the family have no idea how the information got online; they just know that they were never informed.
“It’s really disgusting to me,” O’Mara told AP. “They owe anybody the common decency of letting them know first how their son died.”
Sheriff St. Lawrence spoke with reporters Thursday shortly after the news of Ajibade’s death being ruled a homicide became public, but refused to discuss Ajibade’s death.
O’Mara told AP that he “suspects Ajibade was having a manic episode at the jail.”
“I’m sure he was flailing,” O’Mara said. “They got control of him and beat the [expletive] out of him to get control of him.”