Deputy describes fight with detainee who died in jail cell

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 1:34 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Before he was found dead in a jail cell, a 21-year-old Savannah man fought sheriff's deputies with "every bit of fiber of strength" as they tried to book him, a jailer involved in the brawl testified Friday.

Jurors heard testimony for a fourth day Friday in the trial of three former Chatham County jail workers charged with involuntary manslaughter in the January death of Mathew Ajibade.

Though Ajibade was bloodied by punches to the face and was kicked in the head, no deputies who took part in the fight were charged with crimes. Instead, prosecutors say the crimes that led to Ajibade's death happened afterward.

Prosecutors say Cpl. Jason Kenny shocked Ajibade with a Taser four times after his hands and legs had been bound by restraints. Former Cpl. Maxine Evans and jail nurse Gregory Brown are accused of ignoring the detainee's injuries and of faking jail records to make it appear they checked his condition.

Pvt. Samuel Richardson testified Friday that Ajibade seemed confused as the deputy tried to book him on a domestic violence charge the night of Jan. 1. He said Ajibade kept pacing and refused to sit in a chair. Things turned violent, Richardson said, when he tried to lead Ajibade back to a holding cell to calm down.

"He began screaming at just a light touch on his arm," the deputy said. "He refused to move. His body just kind of went rigid and stiffened up."

Richardson said he forced Ajibade to the floor to try to get control over him, and the detainee lashed out violently.

Surveillance video from the jail shows three deputies trying to hold Ajibade while a fourth circles them with a Taser, looking for an opening to use it. Ajibade gets stunned with the Taser twice, then manages to grab the deputy's Taser and yank her forcefully to the floor. He stands and uses the weapon to shock another jailer.

One deputy punches Ajibade twice in the face, knocking him to the floor in a spray of blood. Another kicks at the detainee twice — one kick snaps Ajibade's head to the side, the other sends the Taser spinning across the floor.

"How would you describe his level of resistance?" Bobby Phillips, Evans' defense attorney, asked Richardson.

"With every bit of fiber of strength that was in him," Richardson replied.

Richardson said it took at least five deputies to hold Ajibade while he was handcuffed and his legs were chained. Deputies carried him to an isolation cell and strapped him into a restraint chair.

That's when Kenny is accused to using a Taser to shock Ajibade four times. Richardson said he fetched the Taser when officers requested one, but he stayed outside the cell and did not see Kenny use it.

Former Lt. Debra Johnson, the jail watch commander that night, testified deputies were required to check the medical condition of inmates in restraint chairs every 15 minutes. Surveillance video showed Ajibade was alone for an hour and a half before Evans found him dead.

Dr. Kris Sperry, chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified earlier in the trial that an autopsy found no single cause of Ajibade's death. Sperry said he was "stressed to death."

Attorneys for Ajibade's family have said he suffered from bipolar disorder and likely had a manic episode when he was taken to jail.