A Gwinnett County police officer fired after video appeared to show him punching a man during a traffic stop is formally appealing his dismissal in hopes of reinstatement, his attorney said.
“He maintains he was following proper policy,” said lawyer Mike Puglise, who represents former Gwinnett Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni, fired after 19 years on the force after video surfaced last week of his encounter with Demetrius Hollins.
Hollins, 21, was pulled over last Wednesday for not having a
license plate and changing lanes multiple times without signaling, according to an incident report. Hollins refused to stop until his car eventually stalled out, the report states.
Puglise said what looked like a punch from Hollins was actually an elbow strike, “an FBI-taught defensive tactic.
The suspect was handcuffed and on the ground when Master Officer Robert McDonald kicked him in the head. Both encounters were captured on video and went viral, leading Gwinnett Police Chief Butch Ayers to fire the officers almost immediately.
Bongiovanni has 15 days to file a formal appeal with the five-member Gwinnett County Merit Board. It’s unclear whether McDonald will do the same.
Puglise said he is confident Bongiovanni will get his job back.
“He wouldn’t have have made it this far if he was a rogue officer,” he said.
A more complete story will be filed later today on myajc.com.