The family of Matthew Ajibade has hired Mark O’Mara–the attorney and CNN analyst who helped George Zimmerman win a shocking acquittal in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. Ajibade’s family hired O’Mara to help them investigate the death of the 22-year-old, who died in police custody at the Chatham County Detention Center in Savannah, Georgia after an argument with his girlfriend on New Year’s Day.
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Ajibade suffers from bipolar disorder and on New Year’s Day, he and his girlfriend got into a domestic dispute and she called the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office. Responding officers claim Ajibade was holding his girlfriend under a blanket when they arrived and refused to let her go. They also said she had visible injuries.
According to reports, Ajibade was having a manic episode because of his bipolar disorder and his girlfriend called them to help her take him to the hospital. The police report neglects this detail, but Ajibade’s girlfriend handed the officers a bottle of prescription pills when they arrested Ajibade.
That’s when details get cloudy. O’Mara says, “Unfortunately this turned from helping, to an arrest pretty quickly and we want to know why—we want to know why the family’s request that he be brought to the hospital—which seemed to be reasonable – were not heeded.” Instead of taking Ajibade to the hospital as he requested, the officers took him into the Chatham County Detention Center and according to the Sheriff’s Office, Ajibade fought with deputies, injuring several of them. They had to restrain him.
O’Mara says, “My understanding was because of his behavior, he was put into a restraining chair and that’s a tool that law enforcement uses – and they’re allowed to use – and even in occasions supposed to use.” The officers reportedly “checked” on Ajibade twice while he was restrained in that chair and the second check found him unresponsive and efforts to resuscitate him failed. Ajibade was dead.
“I hope [sheriff’s deputies are] just going to be open, honest and straight forward with why they did what they did because we know it had a tragic result,” O’Mara said at the news conference. “He’s dead.”
O’Mara finds himself on a very different side of the debate on violence against Blacks at the hands of police officers. There’s a national dialogue that’s always been brewing, but because of recent killings like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, many people of color are left feeling hopeless, like they not only can’t trust police officers, but that their lives also don’t matter. O’Mara efforts in getting Zimmerman off for the death of Trayvon Martin was a national symbol of the value of the Black life. What an interesting turn of events it is to see him representing a family who’s going through a tragedy he helped a man get off for.
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