Jan 18, 2024 - News

Family of Atlanta man fatally tased by former cop sues city and police chief

Hollman family during press coference

Arnitra Hollman, second from left, speaks about the death of her father Johnny Hollman Sr., who died after he was tased by a former Atlanta police officer. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

The family of an Atlanta deacon who died after he was tased during a traffic stop has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, police chief and the former officer.

Why it matters: Johnny Hollman Sr.'s death following an August traffic stop sparked protests, resulted in the firing of officer Kiran Kimbrough and led the Atlanta Police Department to change its policy on how it issues citations.

The latest: The 63-page complaint, which lists Kimbrough, Chief Darin Schierbaum and the city as defendants, alleges that Kimbrough violated Hollman's constitutional rights by using excessive force "without actual or arguable reasonable suspicion or probable cause."

  • It also argues that at the time of Hollman's death, the city's official arrest policy — which allowed cops to arrest a person who refused to sign a ticket — was unconstitutional;
  • That the city has a stance of "indifference to widespread pattern and practice of excessive force"; and
  • Kimbrough failed to provide medical care to Hollman after he was tased and "physically assaulted."

What they're saying: Mawuli Davis, whose law firm represents the Hollman family, said at a Thursday press conference that there are no other situations where the former officer would have spoken to an "elder of 62 years old in that context, except having been given a badge and a gun by the Atlanta police."

  • "In addition to being given a badge and a gun, he's also been given the nod, the wink, the 'yeah, this is how we do in certain communities,'" Davis said.
  • Fellow attorney Harold Spence said Hollman did not interfere with Kimbrough doing his job nor did he try to evade or run away.

The other side: Atlanta police spokesperson Chata M. Spikes told Axios the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

  • City spokesperson Michael Smith also said it does not comment on lawsuits, but "the Hollman family remains in the mayor's prayers."
  • He reiterated that Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens ordered a review of the incident, which led to the new citation policy; fast-tracked the launch of Atlanta's civilian response unit; and developed new guidelines to consider releasing footage that shows the use of force when it results in death or serious injuries.

Catch up quick: Hollman, who was chairman of the deacon ministry at Lively Stones of God Ministries, was driving home from a Bible study when he was involved in a traffic collision on the night of Aug. 10.

  • Kimbrough responded to the crash at Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard and Cunningham Place.
  • According to body camera footage released in November by APD, Kimbrough determined Hollman was at fault in the crash.
  • After disagreeing with the officer's decision, Hollman agreed to sign the ticket and as he reached for it, Kimbrough grabbed his arm and wrestled him to the ground.
  • During the scuffle, Kimbrough told Hollman to put his hands behind his back, but the deacon repeatedly said, "I can't breathe."
  • The former officer tased Hollman, who became unresponsive, then called for backup.
  • EMS crews tried to revive him at the scene, but Hollman was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Of note: An autopsy determined Hollman died from an abnormal heart rhythm caused by the use of the taser.

  • Kimbrough was fired in October for failing to follow the department's policy of having a supervisor on the scene before he tried to arrest the deacon.
  • Atlanta police asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the incident.
  • The GBI previously told Axios it turned over its case file to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, which will determine if criminal charges will be filed.

The bottom line: Arnitra Hollman, his eldest daughter, said during the press conference that she wants the city to take accountability for how her father was "brutally murdered on the streets of Atlanta."

  • She said her father called her during his encounter with the officer and was on the phone for nearly 18 minutes.
  • There isn't a day that goes by where she doesn't hear his voice in her head or she replays those final moments, she said.
  • "The mayor is going to move on, the chief is going to move on, but … this is our reality," she later said. "This is our new normal."
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