Jurors began hearing recorded statements of former Chatham County Sheriff’s Cpl. Jason Kenny in the days after Mathew Ajibade’s death in the Chatham County Detention Center.
But a rare Saturday of testimony in Chatham County Superior Court began with an admonishment to attorneys by Superior Court Judge James F. Bass.
“All of this bickering won’t help us get to the truth,” Judge Bass said.
Kenny’s recorded statements to investigators at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation maintained a central narrative: that he tased Ajibade four times in a holding cell to gain compliance as deputies struggled to strap him into a restraint chair.
Ajibade would die in that chair sometime the morning of Jan. 2.
“He said he wanted to go and he wanted to die,” Kenny said in the recording to GBI Investigator Ashley Brown on Jan. 2.
Kenny maintained throughout interviews that it was his belief he could tase an inmate in restraints to gain compliance. But as the days after Ajibade’s death wore on, internal affairs investigators began to turn up the heat.
“I’ll be inclined to show you this video where it shows he ain’t movin’ when you put the damn taser on his leg,” said Lt. Rhodes in the January video at the CCSO Internal Affairs office.
The aggressive interrogation led to an objection from Kenny’s attorney.
“You have a lieutenant who is in authority telling him it isn’t policy,” Yancey said. “There is no policy!”
Judge Bass sustained the objection, then ordered the jury to disregard the entire interview as evidence.
But in further testimony, investigators maintained Ajibade had not been physically struggling in the taser videos when Kenny delivered the four shocks. But both the lead investigator and internal affairs were forced to admit there was no written policy in the sheriff’s office about tasers and restraints.
“I don’t recall it mentioning that you could not use,” said GBI Special Agent Cyrus Purdiman, the lead investigator of the criminal cases.
“Based on your experience in the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, what was your understanding of tasing an inmate while he was restrained,” Assistant District Attorney Christie Barker then asked CCSO Internal Affairs Investigator Pvt. Nicole Meyers.
“Honestly, I didn’t have an understanding,” Pvt. Meyers said in testimony.
News 3 obtained the policy at the time of Ajibade’s death and it confirms:
“The taser may be used to control dangerous or violent subject(s) when: 1) attempts to subdue the subject by conventional means have been, or will likely be ineffective in the situation at hand, or 2) there is reasonable expectation that it would be unsafe for officer to approach the subject within contact range.”
On the next page, the sheriff’s use of force continuum also includes no mention of taser use on an inmate in restraints:
“The taser is placed on the use of force continuum at the verbal noncompliance level.”
In his recorded statements, Kenny refers to Ajibade’s resistance as “verbal noncompliance.”
An earlier News 3 investigation of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office policy on tasers and restraints revealed that it was only after Mathew Ajibade’s death that the jail administrator issued the directive not to tase an inmate in restraints.
Three weeks later, when inmate Michael Corbett was drive-stunned with a taser in an incident Jan. 24 in the jail, a second directive was issued clarifying the order that deputies were not to drive-stun inmates in restraints, either.