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Georgia Student's Death While In Police Custody Is Ruled A Homicide

Matthew Ajibade was found dead in his jail cell on New Year's Day. A coroner has determined that he died of "blunt force trauma."

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A 21-year-old man who died in a Savannah, Georgia, jail was killed by "blunt force trauma" in what the county coroner has ruled a homicide.

The death certificate, which BuzzFeed News obtained Thursday, classifies Matthew Ajibade's Jan. 1 death as a homicide. Chatham County coroner William Wessinger told CNN that Ajibade had "abrasions, lacerations, skin injuries about the head and some other areas of the body" and "some small amount of blood inside the skull case."

The injuries and the homicide finding, however, “does not mean murder,” Wessinger told the Savannah Morning News. “That does not mean anything was intentional. It can be, but [homicide is] death at the hands of another person.”

Ajibade, a student and artist, died in Chatham County jail after being placed in isolation. He was initially arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, battery, and resisting arrest. Chatham County Sheriff’s officials said that after his arrest, Ajibade had “become combative during the booking process and was subsequently restrained.”

Three sheriff's deputies were injured during the altercation with Ajibade at the jail.

But on Thursday, Will Claiborne, an attorney representing Adjibade's family, sharply criticized the the way authorities have handled the case. He told BuzzFeed News that the Chatham County district attorney has refused to release any information to the family, including video recordings from the jail.

"Until they release the video, we don’t have any idea if the log book is accurate or not," Claiborne said, referring to jail documents that describe the altercation with Ajibade. "Don’t tell us what happened, or what somebody says happened, show us what happened."

Claiborne said Ajibade was having a bipolar episode at the time of the altercation and did not receive required medical attention after being placed in isolation. His family — whom Claiborne said found out about the homicide classification via TV and Facebook — plans to file a civil lawsuit based on their attorneys' own investigation.

"Through our own investigation, we believe Matthew was murdered while in the jail," Claiborne said.

Nine deputies were fired last month in connection with the altercation.

The Chatham County district attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Read Ajibade's death certificate here:

Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jim Dalrymple II at jim.dalrymple@buzzfeed.com.

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