United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
SOLOMAN OLUDAMISI AJIBADE, as natural parent of Mathew Ajibade; ADENIKE HANNAH AJIBADE, as natural parent of Mathew Ajibade; THE ESTATE OF MATHEW AJIBADE; CHRIS OLADAPO, as executor, Plaintiffs,
JOHN WILCHER, in his official capacity as Chatham County Sheriff; CORIZON HEALTH, INC.; GREGORY BROWN; FREDERICK BURKE; ABRAM BURNS; MARK CAPERS; MAXINE EVANS; ANDREW EVANS-MARTINEZ; PAUL FOLSOME; DEBRA JOHNSON; JASON KENNY; ERIC VINSON, Defendants.
STAN BAKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendants Lieutenant Debra Johnson and Andreux
Evans-Martinez's Motions for Summary Judgment as to all
claims alleged against them by the Plaintiffs. (Docs. 191,
192.) This case arises from the January 2015 death of Mathew
Ajibade while in the Chatham County Sheriff's custody at
the Chatham County Detention Center (“CCDC”).
(Doc. 21.) Ajibade's parents and his estate filed this
suit against Defendants Johnson and Martinez, who were
corrections officers at the CCDC, as well as the Sheriff,
various other corrections officers, the company supplying
health services at the CCDC at the time of Ajibade's
death, and a nurse on duty at the time of Ajibade's
death. (Id.) Against Johnson and Martinez,
Plaintiffs assert claims for violations of Ajibade's
constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
assault and battery, and wrongful death. (Id.)
Defendants Johnson and Martinez filed Motions for Summary
Judgment, claiming that the assault and battery and
constitutional violation claims against them lack the
necessary evidentiary support and/or are barred by principles
of immunity and that the wrongful death claim against them
fails as a matter of law. (Docs. 191, 192). Plaintiffs filed
Responses in opposition, (docs. 226, 233), and Defendants
Johnson and Martinez filed Replies, (docs. 249, 256). For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS
Defendants Johnson and Martinez's Motions for Summary
Judgment. (Docs. 191, 192.)
following facts relevant to the disposition of Defendants
Johnson and Martinez's Motions are undisputed.
evening of January 1, 2015, officers with the
Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department arrested
Mathew Ajibade for the battery of his girlfriend and
transported him to the CCDC. (Doc. 181-19 (Owens Depo.), pp.
9-12, 32; doc. 226-2, pp. 1-3.) Ajibade was initially placed
in a holding cell where he remained for several hours. (Doc.
226-2, pp. 6-8.) At or around 11:28 p.m., a CCDC officer
retrieved Ajibade from the holding cell and took him into a
common area to commence the booking process. (Id. at
pp. 7-8.) During that process, a physical struggle between
Ajibade and four officers ensued, and one officer called for
back-up assistance. (CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:28:36 through
11:34:02 PM.) During the struggle, one officer is
believed to have drive-stunned Ajibade with a Taser before
Ajibade was able to take the Taser from her, at which point
he held the Taser up at the officers. (Doc. 233-2, p. 13-15; doc.
181-12 (Johnson Depo.), p. 266.) One officer was injured
during the struggle and ultimately required medical
attention. (Doc. 181-12, p. 122.) Over the next few minutes,
multiple officers arrived on scene in response to the call
for back-up assistance. (CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:34:02
through 11:37:17 PM.)
Johnson, who was the watch commander that evening, arrived in
the booking area around 11:36:45 PM. (Id. at
11:36:45 PM.) At this point, Ajibade was lying face down on
the floor with approximately seven officers holding and/or
hovering over him. (Id. at 11:36:55 PM.) After
walking over to observe the huddled mass, Johnson retrieved a
nearby Taser and (as shown from the video footage) removed
something from it. (Id. at 11:36:56 through 11:37:15
PM.) She then walked back over to the group and placed the
Taser onto Ajibade's lower body and told Ajibade that he
needed to “calm down and let them put the
restraints” on him or he would be drive-stunned.
(Id. at 11:37:20 through 11:37:33 PM; doc. 181-12
(Johnson Depo.), pp. 175-76.) In response, Ajibade calmed
down and, once hand and leg restraints were secured onto him,
Defendant Johnson stood back up and removed the Taser from
Ajibade's skin. (Doc. 181-12 at p. 176;
CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:37:42 PM.) It is undisputed that
Defendant Johnson did not actually tase (or drive-stun)
Ajibade. (Doc. 233-2, p. 17.)
Martinez, who was working in a different area of the CCDC but
had been instructed by a superior to respond to the call for
back-up assistance, arrived at the booking area at 11:37:17
p.m., just as Defendant Johnson was approaching the huddled
group with the Taser. (CM136PreBooking#41at 11:37:17 PM; doc.
181-16 (Martinez Depo.), p. 34:13-24; doc. 226-2, p. 19.)
Defendant Martinez paced around the group and then stood on
the periphery of the group. (CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:37:17
through 11:37:39 PM.) An additional six or seven officers
were also in the general vicinity at this time.
(CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:37:17 PM.) Martinez heard Johnson
tell Ajibade that if he continued to resist, he would be
tased. (Doc. 181-16, p. 35:2-3.)
Ajibade's hands and feet were restrained, Johnson
instructed the officers to take Ajibade to a nearby detox
cell and place him in a restraint chair for his safety and
the safety of others. (Doc. 226-2 at p. 19.) A group of
officers then carried Ajibade away from the booking area.
(CM136PreBooking#41 at 11:39:17 through 11:39:34 PM.) Neither
Johnson nor Martinez assisted in carrying Ajibade, and
Martinez never made any physical contact with him.
(Id. at 11:39:17 through 11:39:34 PM; doc. 226-2 at
p. 19.) Rather, Martinez walked behind the group that was
carrying Ajibade out of the area. (CM136PreBooking#41 at
11:37:17 through 11:37:39 PM; doc. 181-16, p. 50:9-14.)
Johnson went elsewhere to check on one of the officers who
had been injured during the initial struggle with Ajibade.
(Doc. 233-2, pp. 17-18.) According to his testimony,
Defendant Martinez understood his role at this time as being
on “stand-by, ” awaiting any instructions from
Defendant Johnson. (Doc. 181-16, p. 48:11-21.)
undisputed that, instead of placing Ajibade in the nearby
detox cell as instructed by Defendant Johnson, the officers
took Ajibade and the restraining chair to a different holding
cell. (Doc. 233-2, p. 18.) Defendant Martinez did not
participate in the decision to place Ajibade in a different
cell and he did not know that, unlike some other cells in the
CCDC, the chosen cell did not have a camera positioned to
film anything inside the cell. (Doc. 181-16, pp. 39:11-16,
40:19-25, 41:1.) While the other officers were carrying
Ajibade to the cell, Corporal Jason Kenny arrived on the
scene. (Doc. 233-2, p. 18.)
the restraining chair was placed inside the cell, it was
positioned so that it faced the back wall, with the back of
the chair facing toward the door. (Doc. 181-16, pp. 55:23-25,
56:1- 5.) Thus, when Ajibade was placed into the chair, his
back was to the doorway and his face was not visible to those
looking in from outside the cell door. (Id.)
Multiple officers, including Corporal Kenny, went into the
cell and participated in the process of placing and securing
Ajibade into the restraining chair. (See generally
Kenny requested a Taser, and another officer obtained it from
Defendant Johnson. (Doc. 181-12, p. 136.) According to his
own testimony, Corporal Kenny discharged the Taser once while
pointing it at the ground; this was done as both a means of
testing it and as a “show of force” in an effort
to gain compliance from Ajibade. (Doc. 181-13 (Kenny Depo.),
p. 145:12-19). Because Ajibade continued to resist after the
test engagement, Corporal Kenny then drive-stunned Ajibade,
though there is no evidence regarding how much time passed
between the test engagement and the drive-stun. (Id.
at pp. 145:12-25, 147:13-23.) According to Corporal Kenny,
Ajibade screamed after the first drive-stun and Corporal
Kenny waited “for a second” to see if Ajibade
thereafter complied with the commands to sit down.
(Id. at p. 149:4-9.) When Ajibade continued
“trying to come back up, ” Corporal Kenny told
him to stop resisting and then drive-stunned him a second
time. (Id. at pp. 150:20-25, 151:1.) Corporal Kenny
testified that he drive-stunned Ajibade a total of four
times, that three of the drive stuns lasted fewer than five
seconds and one lasted five full seconds, and that he waited
ten seconds or less between each drive stun. (Id. at
pp. 148:6-18, 153:5-16, 155:5-13, 177:7-14.) He also
testified that Ajibade was screaming during this process.
(Id. at p. 152:24-25.) After the fourth drive-stun,
Ajibade complied with the Kenny's command to sit down and
was then secured into the chair. (Id. at pp.
point, a spit mask was placed onto Ajibade's face.
(Id. at pp. 19, 215.) Once Ajibade was secured in
the restraint chair, Nurse Brown went inside the cell to
check him. (CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:46:59 through 11:47:58
PM; Doc. 181-12, pp. 194-206.) One or more officers were
expected to have been routinely checking on Ajibade, in
compliance with CCDC policy, after Nurse Brown left. (Doc.
181-12, p. 238.) At 1:35 a.m., approximately an hour and
forty-five minutes after he was secured in the chair, Ajibade
was found unresponsive and was pronounced dead shortly
afterwards. (Doc. 226-2, pp. 24-25.)
Defendant Johnson's Knowledge and Involvement
According to the video footage, Defendant Johnson arrived in
the vicinity of the holding cell over one minute after
Ajibade and the restraint chair were taken into the cell.
(See CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:41:10 PM.) She did
not enter the cell at this time, though she did look in for
roughly five seconds. (Id. at 11:41:10 through
11:41:15 PM.) Defendant Johnson testified that, when she
looked in, she saw Corporal Kenny holding the Taser and
noticed that the Taser's light was on, but Corporal Kenny
was talking to Ajibade, “telling him to calm
down.” (Doc. 181-12, pp. 138-39.) She then walked away
from the doorway and attempted to locate a spit mask in the
area adjacent to the cell. (CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:41:16
through 11:42:06 PM.) After a spit mask was located and sent
in to the cell, Defendant Johnson looked over the heads of a
few officers standing in front of her in the doorway of the
cell for roughly twenty-five seconds. (Id. at
11:42:07 through 11:42:32 PM.) She heard Corporal Kenny
“giving [A]ibade] commands to calm down.” (Doc.
181-12, p 140.) Next, Defendant Johnson looked at an injury
one officer had suffered, and, at 11:42:41 p.m., walked away
from the vicinity of the cell. (CM117FemaleHolding#2 at
11:42:32 through 11:42:41 PM.) She was gone from the area for
the next four and a half minutes. (Id. at 11:42:42
through 11:47:03 PM.)
to her testimony, Defendant Johnson was not aware that
Corporal Kenny had used the Taser to drive-stun Ajibade until
after Ajibade died. (Doc. 181-12, pp. 251-52.) Plaintiffs
have not presented any evidence calling this testimony into
dispute. In response to Defendant Johnson's assertion
that she was not in the vicinity at the time of Corporal
Kenny's drive-stuns, Plaintiffs deny the statement and
state: “Johnson approached the . . . cell to assess the
situation at 11:41:10. There is a Taser time stamp at
11:43:18, according to [an] internal affairs report.”
(Doc. 233-2, p. 21 (record citations omitted).) The video
footage, however, clearly establishes that, although she was
in the vicinity of the cell at 11:41:10 p.m., Defendant
Johnson had left the vicinity by 11:43:18 p.m. (See
CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:43:18 PM.) Plaintiffs do not
direct the Court to any other Taser time stamps (for any of
the other drive stuns) that they claim occurred at a time
that Defendant Johnson was in the vicinity, nor do they offer
any other direct evidence that they claim proves she was
aware of the drive stunning at the time it was
11:47:04 p.m., Defendant Johnson returned to the vicinity of
the cell, accompanied by Nurse Brown, whom she had asked to
check Ajibade as he was finally fully-restrained in the
chair. (Id. at 11:47:04 PM; Doc. 181-12, p. 153.)
Both Johnson and Brown entered the cell, and Corporal Kenny
remained inside. (CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:47:04 PM; doc.
181-12, p. 154.) Nurse Brown had been present when another
officer informed Johnson that Ajibade had been tased during
the initial struggle in the booking area. (Doc. 181-12, pp.
201-02.) However, Johnson does not recall anyone telling
Nurse Brown (or Johnson, for that matter) that Ajibade was
tased multiple times while being placed in the restraint
chair. (Id. at p. 200.) While Nurse Brown was
performing his check, Johnson conversed with Corporal Kenny
and she heard Ajibade moaning, in her opinion, “like he
was angry” and in a way that indicated to her that
“definitely . . . he was coherent.” (Id.
at p. 205.) Her testimony is that, because she was busy
speaking to Corporal Kenny, she only recalls Nurse Brown
saying he was checking Ajibade's legs and hands and
watching him actually check Ajibade's hands.
(Id. at pp. 197-98.) She denies observing any blood
on Ajibade at this time. (Id.) Johnson and Nurse
Brown were in the cell for just under a minute.
(CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:47:06 through 11:47:57 PM.)
Defendant Johnson left the scene to attend to her other
duties as watch commander that night and was under the
impression that another officer was routinely checking on
Ajibade, pursuant to CCDC policy. (Doc. 181-12, p. 238-40.)
Plaintiffs claim that, shortly after officers left the area
of his cell, Ajibade screamed for help and yelled “I
can't breathe.” (Doc. 233-2, at p. 26.) However,
Plaintiffs do not point to any evidence that Johnson heard or
should have heard these calls for help. At some point after
midnight, Johnson asked Corporal Evans whether Ajibade was
okay, and Evans responded that he was. (Id. at pp.
22-23.) At 1:35 a.m., Ajibade was found unresponsive and was
pronounced dead shortly afterwards. (Id. at pp. 23,
Defendant Martinez's Knowledge and Involvement
undisputed that Defendant Martinez did not directly assist
with securing Ajibade into the chair and never actually went
inside the cell. (Doc. 226-2, p. 21; doc. 181-16, p.
58:16-17.) Defendant Martinez never spoke to Ajibade. (Doc.
181-16, p. 45:6-10.) The closest Defendant Martinez came to
the inside of the cell was when he helped hold the door open
as the restraining chair was wheeled in behind Ajibade.
(CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:40:00 through 11:40:16 PM.) After
that, he alternated between standing behind multiple other
officers outside of the doorway and walking around to locate
items that officers inside the cell requested. (See,
e.g., Id. at 11:41:00 through 11:41:34 PM;
doc. 181-16, pp. 56:6-11, 19-24, 61:11-14.) Indeed, Defendant
Martinez left the doorway and/or the general area entirely on
several occasions for appreciable time periods. (See
CM117 Female Holding #2 at 11:41:00 through 11:41:34,
11:43:01 through 11:44:05, 11:44:37 through 11:44:56 PM, and
11:45:35 through 11:47:27 PM). Further, Defendant Martinez
testified that, even when he was near the doorway, he could
“not really” see into the cell through all the
officers. (Doc. 181-16, p. 75:3-10.)
point while he was in the vicinity of the cell, Defendant
Martinez heard a single discharge of a Taser inside the cell.
(Doc. 181-16, p. 59:7-18.) He testified that he could not see
whether Ajibade had been restrained to the restraint chair at
the time the Taser was engaged. (Id. at pp. 23-24.)
In fact, Defendant Martinez never testified that he actually
saw the Taser being used. (See, e.g., Id.
at p. 42.) However, Defendant Martinez did testify that,
aside from hearing the Taser discharge on one occasion, he
was not aware of any additional discharges. (Id. at
p. 60:7-10.) Martinez admits that he did not say anything to
any of the other officers about whether it was appropriate to
use a Taser on Ajibade. (Id. at p. 60:11-13.)
Martinez was not in the immediate vicinity of the cell when
Nurse Brown entered, but he was in the vicinity when Nurse
Brown exited the cell. (CM117FemaleHolding#2 at 11:46:59
through 11:47:58 PM.) After Nurse Brown emerged from the
cell, Defendant Martinez returned to the wing of the CCDC
where he had originally been assigned duties for the night.
(See Doc. 181-16, p. 71:2-16.) He was not involved
with Ajibade after that time. (Id.at pp. 65:7-10,
Plaintiffs assert that Defendant Martinez was aware that
Ajibade was in physical pain, that Ajibade had been moaning
since being placed in the restraint chair, and that Martinez
heard these moans, (doc. 226-1, p. 18), they fail to point to
any evidence to support those assertions. Additionally,
Plaintiffs claim that, shortly after officers left the area
of his cell, Ajibade screamed “Help me” and
“I can't breathe.” (Id.) However,
the Court is unaware of any evidence that Martinez, who went
back to his post in another wing of the CCDC, heard or should
have heard such calls for help.
Issues Regarding Restraint and Resistance
Plaintiffs focus much of their attention on proving, via
record citations, that Ajibade's hands and legs were
cuffed and shackled (respectively) when the officers were
attempting to secure him in the restraint chair. Defendants
do not appear to dispute this fact. Rather, the relevant
dispute, as discussed in greater detail in later sections of
this Order, is whether Ajibade, despite being cuffed and in
leg shackles, was resisting the officers as they attempted to
secure him in the chair. Many of Plaintiffs' citations
provide direct evidence that Ajibade was resisting officers
during this point in time.
instance, Plaintiffs frequently cite to Officer Ambrose's
Examination Under Oath, which does discuss how Ajibade's
hands were cuffed behind his back and his legs were shackled.
(Doc. 219-1, pp. 15, 18.) Notably, however, the cited
portions of the Examination also indicate that Ajibade was
actively resisting officers' efforts to secure him in the
chair. Though he was initially outside of the cell, Ambrose
states he heard a man in the cell yelling, “I don't
want to be here. Let me go.” (Id. at pp.
15-16.) Then Ambrose heard someone else in the cell say,
“[C]alm down, calm down. Quit kicking at me.”
(Id. at p. 15.) When he looked inside the cell,
Ambrose saw officers placing Ajibade-whose hands were cuffed
behind his back- into the chair, and he observed Ajibade-whom
he described as “seem[ing] really upset”-
“screaming and yelling” and “thrashing
about.” (Id. at pp. 16-17.) At some point,
Ambrose was told to come into the cell, at which point he
observed that Ajibade “kept kicking” and
“trying to squirm.” (Id. at p. 19.) He
explained that Ajibade's “feet were cuffed, but
they weren't . . . strapped down to the chair yet.”
(Id.) Thereafter, Ajibade “was screaming and
yelling” and “kicking his feet.”
(Id. at p. 21.) Another officer came in and
“tied [A]ibade's] ankles to the chair” but
“[h]e kept kicking.” (Id.) He heard
Corporal Kenny say, “stop kicking, stop kicking at me,
” and then saw Kenny grab the Taser and turn the light
on. (Id.) Ambrose then heard Kenny say, once again,
“stop kicking towards me, ” at which point
Ambrose (who was standing behind Ajibade) observed Ajibade
“flailing a little bit” and “moving his
feet around and screaming.” (Id. at pp.
21-22.) Ambrose then observed Corporal Kenny take the Taser,
place it on Ajibade's right thigh, and drive-stun
Ajibade. (Id. at p. 22.) According to Ambrose,
Ajibade started screaming and Ambrose heard Kenny say,
“Stop kicking, you're going to get it again.”
(Id.) Ambrose did not testify about any additional
uses of the Taser and stated that he then “slowly
backed out of the room” and heard people calling for
the nurse. (Id.) Later in the Examination Ambrose
explained that, when Corporal Kenny discharged the Taser the
first time, Ajibade was “kicking his legs, ” even
with his “leg chains” on. (Id. at pp.
24-25.) Ambrose also made clear that he only witnessed
Ajibade being drive-stunned one time. (Id. at p.
also cite to one page of Officer David Cody's deposition
transcript to support the assertion that Ajibade “never
struck out at anyone while he was being placed in the
restraint chair, ” (doc. 226-2, p. 21; doc. 233-2, p.
20), but Cody's testimony actually indicates that he was
not able to see Ajibade's legs and was unsure of what
Ajibade may have been doing:
A. . . . And at that point the restraint chair came in and we
tried to set him down.
Q. Okay. And then what happened?
A. He was resisting.
Q. Okay. When you say “he was resisting, ” what
do you mean?
A. He was actively trying to not be placed into the restraint
Q. You mean he was stiffening his body?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Okay. He was-at no time did he strike anybody because he
has his hands behind his back; correct? A. That's
Q. Okay. And his legs are shackled; right?
A. That is correct.
Q. He didn't kick anybody; correct?
A. I don't know what he did. I was on his left
shoulder, so I don't know what his legs were
Q. Well, you didn't see him kick anybody, did you?
A. That's correct.
Q. Okay. So when you say “resisting, ” you mean
he didn't-he was stiffening his body so he wouldn't
be placed in the restraint chair; correct?
A. Yes. And he was kind of moving, kind of see-sawing, I
Q. Okay. So moving his shoulders? A. Uh-huh.
(Doc. 219-2, pp. 53-54 (emphasis supplied).)
also cite to the deposition testimony of Officer Capers to
support their assertion that Ajibade was “at least
partially restrained when Kenny applied the Taser to
[A]ibade's] groin area-four separate times.” (Doc.
229-2, p. 27; doc. 233-2, pp. 25-26 (both citing doc. 181-5
(Capers Depo.), pp. 103-04).) In the cited pages of his
deposition, Officer Capers specifically testified as follows:
Q. And tell me what you remember about what happened when you
went into the cell.
A. They put him in a restraint chair. They sat him in a
restraint chair and he was kicking. At one point Richardson
or somebody asked for Flexi Cuffs. We bring the Flexi Cuffs
in. I grabbed the Flexi Cuffs and I secured-because I was
down by his feet. I secured the Flexi Cuffs, the chain on the
leg irons to the designated area on the restraint chair.
Q. So his legs would have been attached to the restraint
Q. Basically his leg irons are attached to the restraint
A. The chain.
Q. The chain in it, right?
Q. So he's got limited mobility, ...