The loved ones of Johnny Hollman Sr., the church deacon who died after being shocked by a cop wielding a Taser after a traffic ticket dispute last summer, are suing the city of Atlanta.
The former police officer involved, Kiran Kimbrough and his chief are defendants in the filing seeking punitive damages. Since the 62-year-old’s death, the family has been calling for the officer to be criminally charged.
Kimbrough was fired from the Atlanta Police Department in October for violating “standard operating procedure when he failed to have a supervisor on the scene prior to proceeding with the physical arrest after Mr. Hollman failed to sign the citation.”
The claim, obtained by Atlanta Black Star, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Jan. 18 for the “needless and wrongful” death of Hollman. It says that Hollman should not have been shocked in the first place, especially since he eventually complied, and that the officer used excessive force.
On Aug. 10, Kimbrough responded to the scene of Cunningham Place and Joseph E. Lowery Blvd., where Hollman got into a minor car accident while on his way home from Bible study spearheaded by his church, Lively Stones of God Ministries. The officer found that the deacon was at fault for the accident and asked him to sign a ticket.
What Body-Camera Video Shows
Body-camera video released in November shows Hollman repeatedly saying he was not to blame for the traffic accident and asking to speak to a supervisor. The legal filing emphasizes that he hesitated and didn’t refuse to sign the citation.
“Who are you screaming at?” Kimbrough said in the video. “I told you once, lower your voice. You’re not going to scream at me. Do you understand what I’m telling you? Now you’re going to sign this ticket, or I’m going to take you to jail.”
Kimbrough told Hollman he could speak to the supervisor after he signed the document. The lawsuit claims he started to call his daughter, Arnitra, who was on the phone for most of the interaction. After a brief back-and-forth, Hollman agreed to sign but was met with physical force by the officer who pushed him on the ground.
“Ignoring Deacon Hollman’s concession to his request that he sign the ticket, Defendant Kimbrough performed a leg sweep maneuver on Deacon Hollman, taking Deacon Hollman to the ground,” the complaint said. “While doing so, Defendant Kimbrough commented to Deacon Hollman: ‘You acting crazy!’ Once on the ground, Deacon Hollman told Defendant Kimbrough, ‘I’m an old man.”
Kimbrough ordered Hollman to put his hands behind his back while pointing a stun gun at him. Hollman said multiple times that he was struggling to breathe during the interaction. The lawsuit alleges that the man said “I can’t breathe” more than a dozen times.
The officer struck Hollman and used his Taser against him. He appeared to be unresponsive and was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A medical examiner determined his manner of death was a homicide and said he suffered from several injuries.
“Police misconduct that is not punished or sanctioned is likely to be repeated. We are alleging in this lawsuit that time after time we see the City of Atlanta ignore police violence against innocent citizens, often finding minor administrative violations rather than excessive force as a basis for slap on the wrist discipline,” attorney Harold Spence said in a statement. “This ratification of police violence needs to stop and stop now!”
This is the second lawsuit stemming from Hollman’s death. Last month, the family filed a lawsuit against a tow truck driver, Eric Robinson, and his employer, S&W Services of Atlanta Inc. It alleges that he helped Kimbrough restrain Hollman when he arrived at the scene and “straddled” his head and neck.