Two sheriff’s deputies in Chatham County, Georgia are under investigation for their conduct concerning a 22-year-old bipolar man who died in police custody, the Savannah Morning News reported.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the use of force by Cpl. Maxine Evans and Cpl. Jason Kenny following Mathew Ajibade’s arrest on Jan. 1. They were each suspended for what the sheriff’s department called “inappropriate actions” against Ajibade. The nature of the “inappropriate actions” have not been revealed.
Ajibade died after he was found unresponsive while under restraint in an isolation cell. Authorities said he was put in a restraint chair for fighting against deputies trying to book him on domestic violence and obstruction charges. Neither Evans nor Kenny was involved in the fight, which left three deputies injured.
WJCL-TV reported that Ajibade’s family and girlfriend called the authorities asking them to take him a hospital because he was suffering a “manic episode.” The woman reportedly gave deputies a bottle containing Divalproex, a medication used to treat patients experiencing seizures or bipolar behavior.
But his family has argued that the request for medical attention was not mentioned in the preliminary incident report for the case.
Instead, deputies reportedly arrested Ajibade when he refused to let go of the woman, who was standing with him under a blanket. The deputies ordered him to let her go after they saw she had bruises on her face and a bloody nose.
The report states that Ajibade “started to resist apprehension in a violent manner” when a deputy tried to pull him apart from the woman, and that deputies took him to the ground in order to handcuff him before taking him to jail.
Both Ajibade’s family and local NAACP officials have criticized the department’s handling of his arrest.
“I feel that if they had taken the young man to the hospital – knowing that there was a request to take him to the hospital – but he never got there,” NAACP of Savannah board member Solana Plaines told WSAV-TV. “They took him to jail instead and caused his death.”
The family has also hired George Zimmerman’s former attorney, Mark O’Mara, to represent them.
“Metro Police had an opportunity to use a certain amount of discretion and I don’t know how they decided to use it,” O’Mara said. “I know that that discretion could have been — and it is in many cases — to take a person to the hospital. They may have very good reasons for using their discretion. We just don’t know yet.”
Watch a report on Ajibade’s death, as aired by WSAV, below.