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Before Mathew Ajibade Was Killed in a Georgia Jail Cell, His Fiancee Called 911 So Medics Could Bring Him to Hospital; Instead Police Showed Up and Arrested Him

When 22-year-old artist and college student Mathew Ajibade was in the throes of a manic episode from bipolar disorder on New Year’s day on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, his fiancee decided he needed to be at a hospital because he had begun to strike out at her. So the fiancee, Fisayo Odewole, called 911 for an ambulance.

But instead of an ambulance, the dispatcher sent the police to her, which began a series of events that left her husband-to-be dead in a Chatham County jail cell a few hours later, with no explanation of what killed him.

Mark O’Mara, the attorney hired by the Ajibade family, is pushing to view the video footage from the newly renovated Chatham County Detention Center, which his office says is equipped with multiple cameras “all over the place.”

O’Mara, the lawyer who successfully defended George Zimmerman at trial for killing Trayvon Martin in Florida, said that considering the public’s anger over the recent deaths of Black males under questionable circumstances, he is calling on the authorities in Savannah and Chatham County to be as transparent as possible about what happened to Ajibade when he was taken by police to the detention center.

“A guy who was bipolar dies in a restraining chair,” O’Mara said in an interview with Atlanta Blackstar. “You don’t die from bipolar disorder. They need to get a cohesive explanation out as soon as possible. Not only does the family deserve it, the public does. There are a lot of Black males being killed in circumstances that don’t make much sense.”

O’Mara said the fiancee was “truly in shock” after the incident.

“The fiancee was calling for help, then you lose him?” he said.

Odewole told O’Mara that when the police arrived on the Savannah street where she was tending to Ajibade, she objected when she realized the police were charging him with domestic violence and battery after they saw the injury to her face. They added obstruction to the charges when he began resisting them.

“Fisayo says she told the police about Mathew’s condition and asked them to take him to the hospital,” O’Mara explained in a position statement. “She gave officers Mathew’s medication, and she even called Mathew’s employer, who understood Matthew’s condition, so they could further vouch for Mathew and document his condition.

“Fisayo said that the officers promised to take care of Mathew, but instead, many hours later, they showed up at her door to explain that Mathew ‘had died.'”

The Chathan County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release explaining that while being restrained, Ajibade injured three officers, with one officer suffering a concussion and a broken nose.

“The inmate was placed in an isolation cell due to his dangerous behavior,” the press release said. “Upon the inmates second welfare check the inmate appeared non responsive. The Medical Unit staff started CPR and administered defibrillation while preparing the subject for transport to Memorial Medical Center. Efforts to resuscitate the inmate Matthew Ajibade were unsuccessful.”

“We don’t know the cause of Mathew’s death,” O’Mara said in his statement. “The Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an autopsy on January 6th, and we expect to get an answer as soon as possible. But even if we discover the cause of Mathew’s death, the autopsy won’t necessarily tell us why Mathew died. Why wasn’t he taken to the hospital? Did officers take into account Mathew’s mental illness? How was he allowed to die while in officer’s care? You are not supposed to die from bipolar disorder.”

O’Mara said Ajibade’s death raises two troubling questions: How the police deal with people of color and how they contend with people with mental illness.

“In the wake of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there is a crisis of confidence in our criminal justice system,” O’Mara said. “There is an opportunity now for leaders in Savannah, Georgia to show the nation how to properly deal with this type of tragedy. We and the rest of the nation is watching.”

shirt designed by Ajibade

shirt designed by Ajibade

O’Mara’s office said Georgia officials are still awaiting Ajibade’s toxicology results before they will release the results of his Jan. 6 autopsy.

Ajibade’s family is holding a private funeral for him tomorrow. They are planning a memorial service for the popular artist in early March so that his friends and fans in Savannah can come together to celebrate his life and his work. To raise money to transport some of his family members to the memorial, they are selling t-shirts designed by Ajibade at the website,

Ajibade was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and raised in the Washington, D.C. area. He was an artist, photographer, and designer who was studying at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design and AD.

His family and friends describe him in the following way on the fundraising website: “He was a selfless person who stopped at nothing to help everyone. His contagious charisma and charm always kept his friends and family going. He was a creative genius in his own right, full of life, and always working on something new. Matt had a lot of life left to live and he will not get the chance to.”


What people are saying

5 thoughts on “Before Mathew Ajibade Was Killed in a Georgia Jail Cell, His Fiancee Called 911 So Medics Could Bring Him to Hospital; Instead Police Showed Up and Arrested Him

  1. heeeeeeerre we go again! ccalling the cops is like calling for an assisted suicide squad, can't imagine they have these typos on the payroll.

  2. Susan Murphy says:

    The article said his fiance called 911 and the dispatcher called the cops instead. The family should be able to find out who the dispatcher was that did not call the ambulance and have that person charged with murder. Now we know as black people, do not call cops and do not call 911 for anything. Black communities are going to have to police themselves and doctor themselves as well. no going to white people for anything!

  3. Horrible, tragic crime. Most police departments have inadequate or even no training in approaching people with mental illness. Unfortunately, this is not the last time a person suffering from mental illness will be injured or killed at the hands of inadequately trained police, US Marshals ( and other law enforcement officials. Being black or other minority doesn't help.
    I would also correct Attny O'Mara's description of Mr. Ajibade as being bipolar. People with mental illness are not defined by their illness. He was a bright, gentle, creative artist who struggled with bipolar disorder, just as other people cope with other illnesses, be they mental (e.g. depression, schizophrenia) or physical (e.g. diabetes, arthritis, cancer). For an excellent discussion by an investigative reporter (Pete Earley) describing his journey in helping his son with mental illness, and their positive and negative experiences with law enforcement, read his book “Crazy”.

  4. Donovan Nin says:

    Ms Murphy,

    While it is true that this appears to be yet another case of inadequately trained police mishandling a medical emergency, your comments are extreme. We do not know exactly what happened at the jail. Yes, there was criminal violence; broken nose on one side and death on the other. But we don't know who initiated the violence. We will have to wait for the investigation to play in order to make informed comment.

    Of course, it will be another case of cops investigating cops, but at least we have an outside agency (GBI) conducting the inquiry. I am eager to see video evidence.

    As per your claim of dispatcher misconduct, that is completely unfair. All the dispatcher knew was a mentally unstable person was potentially violent and the fiance called for help. S/he had no odea if the subject might become aggressive with medical personnell. In cases like this it is appropriate to dispatch policr to BACK UP medical staff. I do think thay police are often the first option on medical cases whem they should actually should be the last option. Police are emforcers, not assistors. They are trained to combay crime, and have no business becoming involved in situations like this until after a clear threat has been presented. In fact, in many of these cases, the presence of police merely escalates the situation to tragedy. Police are not trainef to handed medical emergency.

    Concerning your assertion that black people should not call 911: while there may be some validity to that, such tragedies also happen to white.

    Cheri Moore, a mentally ill white woman, was killec by police in Eureka, Ca, in 200. Police would not let her family, friends, or even her counselor speal with her. Insyrad they invaded her home and shot her.

    Concerning your assertion that folk should police themselves, that is an excellent observation. It seems to me that there is very few situations that adding aggressively trained, heavily armed, and extremely dangerous people to the mix can help.Particularly when such individuals are trained that "officer safety is paramount" and that they should "fear for thiet life or safety" at the slightest provocation. Police are trained to be fearful, and to act on thosr fears at the merest hint of provocation.

    Obviously, the mentally ill would be better aerved by doctors rather than LEOs.

    I propose that in cases like these, the people closest to the subject (in this case the fiance) train themselves to deal with the situation (in this case, get subject to hospital without assistance). If that means subduing and restraining subject by themselves, or with the assistance of trusted friends or family, then so be it.

    If that means acquiring and learning to use a taser and handcuffs, then so be it. I know it sounds brutal, but remember…

    there is rarely a situation that cannot be made worse by the presence of police.

    If Ajibade initiated the violence, then this is a tragic case of LEOs doing what was unavoidable. If the police initiated the violence, then JUSTICE FOR ADIBAJE!!!

  5. Smiley Peterson says:

    Donovan Nin It is clear that Abijade was aggressive. The problem is the very often people with mental illness are. Shouldn't there be another set of rules in place to handle those that are aggressive but without purpose?

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