This past New Year’s Day, Matthew Ojibade, 22, of Savannah, Georgia,s uffered a manic episode resulting from his ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder. His girlfriend called police to help intervene and take him to the hospital. When they arrived, she gave the police his prescription medication, which was noted in the police report, and requested again that he be taken to the hospital.
This didn’t happen. According to a report by Channel 3 News in Savannah,
Ojibade was taken to the Chatham County Detention Center that evening. According to the Sheriff’s Office, he fought with deputies during booking—injured several—and had to be restrained. “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,” says [their attorney Mark] O’Mara.The Sheriff’s Office says Ojibade was checked on twice while isolated – the second found unresponsive. Efforts to resuscitate him failed. His brother, Chris Olapado, says they’ve been given little information as to how he died, “I just really want to know why – I want justice to be served. No one should ever get news like that about his baby brother being gone….”
O’Mara says they will wait to get those answers before deciding on a course of action, “There’s no blame yet—there’s just a lot of questions.”
The process to find those answers has already begun. O’Mara says the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an autopsy today. The Sheriff’s Department already announced the GBI is investigating the case. O’Mara believes video surveillance from the jail will help in determining what happened.
The statement given by the police, that Ojibade “fought with deputies…and had to be restrained” is vague and raises more questions than answers.
Was he beaten? Was it filmed? What injuries did he suffer in the process of being restrained? Was he given medical attention for his injuries? What does the autopsy show as his cause of death?
Ojibade is not the first man to die in Savannah police custody. Charles Smith, handcuffed and in the back of a police car, was shot and killed by an officer this past September after police said he found a way out of the vehicle and somehow produced a gun.
In November, the former chief of police in Savannah was convicted on federal charges of extortion, gambling, obstruction of justice, and other charges.