Atlanta Police Officer Sung Kim was participating in a joint task force with federal authorities when he shot and killed  a suspect wanted for stealing a cell phone at gunpoint. Photo Courtesy Atlanta Police Department

New details about FBI task force shooting of unarmed man

The chase ended in a friend’s kitchen. Jimmy Atchison had fled there after spotting heavily armed members of an FBI joint task force outside the home of his 11-month-old son’s mother. He was wanted for a recent incident in which he allegedly stole a cell phone at gunpoint.

Atchison, 21, was cornered in a broom closet, surrounded by four members of the task force, including Atlanta Police Officer Sung Kim.

Conflicting commands were given. One member of the task force instructed Atchison to come out with his hands up. But another voice was overheard telling the father of two not to move.

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Atchison opted to surrender. He emerged from the closet, hands up. Kim, a 26-year APD veteran, told investigators he believed Atchison was holding a weapon, though no one had seen him with a gun that day. He shot once, hitting Atchison in the face, a fatal blow.

Those findings from the GBI investigation into Atchison’s death were shared recently with Atchison’s family and their attorney, Tanya Miller. GBI policy prohibits the agency from discussing an open investigation, said spokeswoman Nelly Miles.

“There was no indication Jimmy was struggling or resisting,” Miller said Monday at a press conference. “Jimmy was endeavoring to surrender.”

The fallout from the Atchison case has been far-reaching. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields announced in May her department would no longer partner on task forces with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration or U.S. Marshals because the federal agencies won’t allow officers to wear body cameras.

3/19/19 - Atlanta - Chief Erika Shields speaks 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: Emily Haney/emily.haney@ajc.com

One month later, Miller notified the City of Atlanta of her intent to sue on behalf of Atchison’s two young children. The suit seeks $20 million in damages. On Monday, Miller released a copy of a letter sent last week notifying the FBI of her intent to sue on behalf of Atchison’s estate for another $20 million.

The suits are on hold until Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard turns over the GBI’s investigative file.

“Our office is investigating the matter and it is one of our highest priority cases,” said D.A. spokesman Chris Hopper.

Miller also discussed the fate of Officer Kim, who she insisted had been fired after he refused to resign. Citing unnamed sources, Miller stood by the claim even after APD spokesman Carlos Campos released a statement saying, “No decisions have been made concerning the employment status of Sung Kim.”

“Chief Shields received information from the FBI last week concerning its investigation into the shooting death of Jimmy Atchison,” Campos said. “She is in the process of reviewing that information and determining the department’s next step as it relates to Atchison’s shooting.”

Miller, a former Fulton County assistant district attorney, said she now understands Kim has until Friday to resign or be fired.

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