Three in Georgia Indicted for Death of Arrestee

     (CN) – A grand jury indicted two former jail workers and a contract health worker Wednesday in connection to the Jan. 1 death of a black arrestee.
     Former Chatham County Jail employees Maxine Evans and Jason Kenny, as well as healthcare worker Gregory Brown, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Kenny was also charged with aggravated assault and cruelty to an inmate, while Evans and Brown were charged with public record fraud. Brown could also be charged with making a false statement.
     Matthew Ajibade, 21, was found dead and strapped to a chair inside an isolation cell on Jan. 1. Chatham County Coroner Dr. Bill Wessinger ruled his death a homicide, citing blunt-force trauma as the cause. He said Ajibade took several blows to the head and upper body, and blood was found in his skull case.
     Ajibade, who was a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, had been arrested for fighting with his girlfriend. The arrest was a violent one, and the sheriff’s office said three deputies were injured by Ajibade, one with a concussion and the other a broken nose.
     Ajibade is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder, and his girlfriend handed police a bottle of his prescription medication during his arrest. A Taser was used to restrain Ajibade, who was left unmonitored. But according to the grand jury bill, a jail log book falsely stated he had been checked on.
     The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took on the case, and nine deputies were fired in connection with Ajibade’s death.
     Among the attorneys hired by Ajibade’s family is Mark O’Mara, who was a defense attorney for George Zimmerman in the 2013 murder trial for the death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.
     The family’s counsel asked a Savannah judge to remove Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap from prosecuting the case, saying her political ties Sheriff Al St. Lawrence would cloud her judgment on possible criminal charges.
     “That’s been our concern all along that she was going to whitewash this case as a benefit to the sheriff and in derogation to Mathew’s death,” said O’Mara, who added the indictments were “too little too late.”
     In a statement released Wednesday, St. Lawrence said, “We are saddened by the loss of life in the Matthew Ajibade case and continue to work diligently with the District Attorney to ensure justice is served. As is our procedure in all in-custody deaths, CCSO requested GBI assistance in this investigation and cooperated fully in all aspects. We appreciate all of the work the Grand Jury and District Attorney on this case and are confidant in the legal process.”
     Meanwhile, Heap is seeking a gag order against lawyers and his family.
     The indictments come during a time in which police brutality against unarmed black men has been thrust in the national spotlight. Last summer, Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson was cleared in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, which sparked national outrage and weeks of protests.
     In May, six Baltimore officers were arrested in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, which set off days of protests.
     In June, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was indicted after a cellphone video showed him firing eight shots at and killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, as he attempted to run away from him during a traffic stop. Slager, who currently sits alone in a Charleston jail cell, was seen on the video planting a Taser next to Scott’s lifeless body.
     The three indicted in Ajibade’s death have already surrendered to police.

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