SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Prosecutors plan to seek an criminal indictment next month in the death of a 22-year-old college student at the Chatham County jail.
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap won't specify what criminal charges her office will pursue or how many defendants prosecutors plan to target in the death of Matthew Ajibade, whose body was found in a restraining chair at the jail on New Year's Day. Two weeks ago, Sheriff Al St. Lawrence fired nine of his deputies in connection with the case.
"I want this case to be tried in a courtroom, not a court of public opinion," Heap told the Savannah Morning News.
Heap said prosecutors are reviewing more than 500 pages of case materials prepared by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and internal affairs investigators with the sheriff's office.
Georgia law requires law enforcement officers and public officials targeted for indictment to be notified in advance so they can choose whether to make a statement before the grand jury hearing the case. Heap said notifications were being sent this week and prosecutors expect to present the case to a grand jury in late June.
Ajibade, a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, was arrested on domestic violence charges Jan. 1 after a fight with his girlfriend. Sheriff's officials have said Ajibade became violent and injured three deputies as he was being booked at the jail. One deputy suffered a concussion and a broken nose, according to the sheriff's office. Ajibade was place in isolation in a restraining chair, where he was later found dead.
Authorities have not released Ajibade's autopsy records, citing an open investigation, and the cause of his death remains unknown.
When the sheriff announced May 8 that nine deputies — including two supervisors — had been fired in connection with Ajibade's death, his office released a Feb. 9 memo reminding deputies that they were prohibited from using stun guns on detainees already in restraints.
"Do not utilize any conducted electrical weapon to gain control of a detainee who is in full restraints while in a restraint chair," the memo said, noting that detainees with both their hands and feet bound were to be considered fully restrained.
Police arrested Ajibade after responding to a call and finding his girlfriend with a bruised face and a bloody nose. Savannah-Chatham County police said Ajibade was holding the woman and refused to release her when officers tried to separate the couple. The woman gave police a bottle of pills prescribed to Ajibade before they took him away. Attorneys for Ajibade's family in Hyattsville, Maryland, say he suffered from bipolar disorder.