3/19/19 - Atlanta - People protest the way the death of 21-year-old Jimmy Atchison was handled by officials at a town hall hosted by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

City faces potential $20 mil lawsuit from family of man killed by federal task force 

Skylar Atchison talks to her daddy every day, or so the 3-year-old thinks. The voice of Jimmy Atchison lives on, six months after his death, in the recorded voice of the little girl’s customized Teddy bear. 

Skylar and her 1-year-old brother Jalen are now set to be plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit seeking $20 million from the City of Atlanta. Their father was fatally shot in January by Atlanta police officer Sung Kim, on loan to a FBI task force. 

“Officer Sung Kim’s illegal, unjustified and unconstitutional use of deadly force has robbed two children of the love and support of their father,” attorney Tanya Miller wrote in an ante litem notice, effectively announcing intent to sue — delivered last Friday to city officials, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and APD Chief Erika Shields. Miller represents Atchison’s family.

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Atchison, wanted for an alleged armed robbery of a cell phone, had fled to a friend’s apartment in northwest Atlanta after heavily armed task force members appeared at his door. He was discovered hiding in a closet and ordered to surrender. 

“When Mr. Atchison attempted to comply with the officers’ commands, Officer Kim — unconstitutionally, unlawfully and in violation of Atlanta Police Department policy — fired his city-issued firearm striking Mr. Atchison in the face while Mr. Atchison was attempting to surrender,” Miller said. 

She added the city is liable because Kim was an employee, no matter whom he was working under at the time. 

Kim, a 26-year APD veteran, remains on paid administrative duty, stripped of police powers pending the outcome of the investigations, both internal and external. 

Atchison’s death led Chief Shields to withdraw APD personnel from all federal task forces, citing their lack of transparency. Shields requested her officers be allowed to wear body cams. The feds said no. 

Atlanta police and the mayor’s office declined comment about the ante litem notice, citing the anticipated litigation. 

“Jimmy was the heart and soul of our family,” his father, Jimmy Hill, said Tuesday “My son deserved to have his day in court.” 

The GBI is said to be nearly finished with its investigation of the shooting. But will a probe largely dependent on FBI cooperation truly be thorough? 

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office is also investigating the shooting, said he is skeptical, based on previous interactions. 

The veteran prosecutor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice last December accusing federal authorities of hindering his office’s investigation into the 2016 death of Jamarion Robinson, 26. The onetime Clark Atlanta University football player, who battled schizophrenia, was shot 59 times by members of the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force. 

According to Howard, the Justice Department refused to release documents about the shooting and blocked his investigators from interviewing officers who were on the scene. 

Miller acknowledged that similar stonewalling would make her job in this case more difficult. 

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” she said.

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