Video of traffic stop that led to Atlanta deacon’s death will be released, family’s attorney says
Oct 9, 2023, 3:36 PM
ATLANTA (AP) — Video showing a traffic stop that led to the death of a 62-year-old Black deacon could be publicly released as early as Thursday, a lawyer for the Atlanta man’s relatives said Monday after a meeting with prosecutors.
Relatives of Johnny Hollman Sr., who died Aug. 10 after he was shocked with a stun gun by an Atlanta police officer, have seen the video and contend the officer should be charged with murder.
Mawuli Davis, a lawyer for the Hollman family, said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told him and relatives that the video would be publicly released as soon as Willis concludes that all witnesses have been interviewed.
“It’s not a question of if it will be released,” Davis told reporters outside the Fulton County courthouse after the meeting. “It’s now a question of when and how soon.”
Jeff DiSantis, a spokesperson for Willis, did not dispute the release could come as early as Thursday. He said he couldn’t comment on how long it might be before a decision is made on whether to bring charges against Kiran Kimbrough, the officer who stunned Hollman. Davis said he expected the decision on whether to seek an indictment to take months.
Attorney Lance LoRusso confirmed by email Monday that his firm is representing Kimbrough, but he said he didn’t have an immediate comment. Kimbrough is on administrative leave during the investigation.
Hollman became unresponsive while being arrested after a minor car crash. Relatives say Hollman, a church deacon, was driving home from Bible study at his daughter’s house and bringing home fried chicken and an apple pie to his wife for dinner when he collided with another vehicle. Police didn’t arrive until Hollman and the second driver had waited more than an hour.
The Atlanta Police Department has said Kimbrough shocked Hollman with a stun gun and handcuffed him after Hollman “became agitated and uncooperative” when Kimbrough issued a ticket finding him at fault for the wreck. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Kimbrough and Hollman struggled physically before Kimbrough shocked Hollman.
News outlets have reported that the struggle began when Hollman refused to sign the citation, but Davis said Monday that the video will show Hollman repeatedly agreed to sign at some point, calling that a “false narrative.” Atlanta police has since said officers should write “refusal to sign” on a traffic ticket instead of arresting someone who won’t sign.
An autopsy ruled that Hollman’s death was a homicide, although the medical examiner found that heart disease also contributed to his death.
“Our position is that it was an unwarranted, unjustifiable assault that lead to a death,” Davis said. “And in my book that is murder.”
Medical examiner Dr. Melissa Sims-Stanley said that based on a review of the video and a conversation with a GBI investigator, she concluded that Hollman was unresponsive after he was stunned, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Davis said Hollman tried to tell the officer that he had asthma and couldn’t breathe.
A recording of police radio traffic from that night shows Kimbrough urged paramedics to come to the scene faster after he said Hollman passed out. The officer also reported that his own lip was “busted.”
Hollman’s daughter, Arnitra Hollman, has said her father called her on the phone and she listened for more than 17 minutes, eventually going to the location of the wreck.
“We’re going to continue to fight for justice all the way to the very end, so we can do justice for our father,” Arnitra Hollman said Monday.
Hollman’s death has contributed to discontent with police among some Atlantans that centers on a proposal to build a public safety training center.
The Atlanta City Council last week called on the city to release the video from the incident. The GBI, which is examining the officer’s actions, had asked the Atlanta Police Department not to release the video until the state agency’s investigation is complete. A GBI spokesperson did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday, a state holiday.
Hollman’s truck, impounded after his death, contained nine bags of marijuana, about 28 grams (1 ounce) of an unknown substance, 20 clear bags, a scale, a gun and other personal items, according to a police report obtained by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
Davis said Monday that police gave the gun back to its owner, one of Hollman’s grandsons. Davis said discussion of the marijuana is a “red herring” to smear Hollman after the fact, and that there’s no evidence Kimbrough knew about the drugs.
“None of that had anything to do with this officer’s behavior,” Davis said.
Associated Press writer Kate Brumback contributed to this report.