The Chatham County Sheriff is defending his department’s use of force amidst reports that a young man died of homicide in police custody earlier this year.
Savannah college student Matthew Ajibade died on Jan. 2 and the Chatham County Detention Center. The sheriff’s office says he “became combative” while being booked on charges of domestic violence, battery, and resisting arrest.
A coroner’s report released by an attorney for Ajibade’s family lists the cause of death as homicide by “blunt force trauma.”
During a news conference Thursday, Sheriff Al St. Lawrence declined to address the specifics of Ajibade’s death, but defended the department’s use of force such as tasers. He says his officers use them in less than one percent of cases, while more than 40 officers are injured each month.
"I’m not running a summer camp here; I’m running a prison. And I intend to run it as it should be run," St. Lawrence said.
At least nine sheriff’s deputies were fired as a result of the Ajibade case and the department has hired a consultant to review its procedures.
Attorney Will Claiborne, who represents Ajibade's family, says the sheriff's office has been too slow to release information in the case.
"I expect that all of the people who have committed any criminal act should be charged, that if anyone took steps to enact a policy that allowed this to occur, that that individual be charged," he says.
The Chatham County District Attorney is still reviewing the case and will decide if criminal charges are warranted.
A grand jury is expected to begin considering the case on June 24.