Judge rules Chatham County Sheriff cannot be sued in wrongful death case

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – There are some new developments in long-standing legal action regarding the death of 21-year-old Mathew Ajibade at the Chatham County Detention Center in 2015.

A U.S District Court Judge in Savannah has ruled that Sheriff John Wilcher can be removed from a lawsuit filed by Ajibade’s family in April of 2016.

The judge granted motions from Wilcher’s attorneys for a summary judgment essentially dismissing Wilcher as a defendant in the case

At the time of Ajibade’s death, Wilcher worked in jail operations.  The family’s legal action originally named the late Al St. Lawrence (who was sheriff in 2015).  But when Wilcher was elected sheriff several years ago, he became part of the lawsuit.

Ajibade’s family said he was bi-polar and should have received mental health care after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. However, he was taken to jail where there was a physical altercation with several deputies. Ajibade was subdued and later tased while confined in a chair.  Later, he was found dead.  The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma. 

While the judge wrote that Ajibade’s death was a tragedy for the young man’s family, he also said that Wilcher should not face liability. He sais Wilcher would have had to “personally deprive Ajibade of his constitutional rights or to have established a policy that allowed other officers to do so.  The judge also said that Wilcher had not had direct contact with Ajibade and as a result, granted a summary judgment which removes Wilcher from being named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  

Two other people who were officers in the jail at the time were also removed from the lawsuit. 

News 3 contacted the Savannah attorney for the Ajibade family who indicated he could not comment.  It is known that the family could appeal this ruling.  Both sides have been asked to report back to the judge by April 26 regarding the status of the case. 

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