Deputies put on leave after Georgia student dies in jail

Two sheriff’s deputies in Georgia have been placed on leave with pay for “inappropriate actions” in the case of a college student who died in the county jail, a Chatham County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said.

Cpl. Maxine Evans and Cpl. Jason Kenny will remain on administrative leave until the conclusion of an investigation into the death of Matthew Ajibade, a 22-year-old student from Nigeria who died last week in an isolation cell of the Savannah jail, said Gena Bilbo, the sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Authorities provided no further details into the deputies’ conduct.

The two deputies couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Ajibade, who had bipolar disorder, died in custody after he “became combative during the booking process,” the Sheriff’s Office alleged.

His family is demanding to know why Ajibade died.

During the alleged jail altercation, three deputies were injured, including a female sergeant who suffered a concussion and broken nose, authorities said.

The two deputies now on leave weren’t among the three injured, Bilbo said. The sergeant is on medical leave, but the other two injured deputies remain on duty, said Chief Deputy Roy Harris.

The alleged combativeness doesn’t square with family members’ description of the 22-year-old, whom they described as a much-loved “geeky kid.”

The Nigeria native was in Savannah studying computer science.

Ajibade’s family has hired Mark O’Mara, a CNN legal analyst who once represented George Zimmerman in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

O’Mara called the disciplinary action against the two deputies “a good small step in holding people responsible for their actions.”

“We still need questions answered how Matthew’s life was taken from him,” O’Mara added.

The body was released to the family Thursday morning, O’Mara said.

The attorney hopes to see “discourse of all available information as soon as possible,” he said.

Ajibade was diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago and was having a medical emergency at the time of his arrest and confinement, O’Mara said.

Savannah police arrested Ajibade on January 1 after receiving a call about a domestic disturbance.

When police arrived, they witnessed Ajibade holding a women under a blanket, according to an incident report. Police uncovered the two and noticed that the woman’s “face was bruised, and her nose was bleeding,” the report says.

Officers ordered Ajibade to release the woman, but he did not comply, the report says, adding that when police tried to arrest Ajibade, he proceeded to “resist apprehension 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.

The police report notes that officers received a prescription bottle from the alleged victim, but the name of the prescription has been redacted.

Once at the jail, officials say, Ajibade had to be restrained, during which time he injured the three officers. He was then moved to an isolation cell because of his “dangerous behavior,” a police news release says.

Deputies conducted welfare checks on Ajibade and on their second check, he was found nonresponsive, police say. First aid was administered by the jail’s medical unit staff. Despite CPR and attempts to restart his heart with a defibrillator, Ajibade could not be revived, according to the release.

It’s unclear 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.

County government officials declined CNN requests for an interview, citing the ongoing investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office has requested that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an independent investigation. A GBI spokesperson said an autopsy had been conducted, but that a cause of death was pending toxicology reports.

The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office said a criminal investigation is ongoing and the office will “handle the matter further, should it become necessary.”

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