According to CNN, the death of a Nigerian student, Matthew Ajibade in an isolation jail cell in Savannah, Georgia, on New Year’s Day has been ruled a homicide, Chatham County coroner William Wessinger said Thursday.
The cause of death of the 21-year-old “is listed as blunt force trauma, which was really a combination of several things that were enumerated in his autopsy report by the GBI,” the coroner said, citing “abrasions, lacerations, skin injuries about the head and some other areas of the body. There was some small amount of blood inside the skull case.”
Wessinger however stressed that homicide means only that another person was involved and it does not imply murder, though it includes murder, he said.
Nine Chatham County deputies were fired in connection with Ajibade’s death last month, said Gena Bilbo, spokeswoman for the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, while, two of those nine deputies had been on paid leave for “inappropriate actions” in the case.
Ajibade died in custody after he “became combative during the booking process,” the sheriff’s office said in an incident report. During the alleged jail altercation, three deputies were injured, including a female sergeant who suffered a concussion and broken nose, authorities said.
Family members’ however described the 21-year-old as a much-loved “geeky kid” who traveled to Savannah to study computer science, which is contrary to the alleged combativeness by authorities.
A lawyer representing the family said the release of Ajibade’s death certificate raises more questions than answers, while attorney Mark O’Mara, who once represented George Zimmerman in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin and a CNN legal analyst criticized authorities for how they’ve handled the case:
“First of all, they knew (the cause of death) back in January, I’m sure. This (death certificate) was signed May 8, and a month later we find out about it … . I just don’t see how they can be so insensitive to the man, and insensitive to the family’s grief,” O’Mara said. “They have hid this from us for five months. It makes no sense.”
Ajibade was reportedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder three years ago and was having a medical emergency at the time of his arrest and confinement, O’Mara said.