Body camera footage released after death of Atlanta deacon in police custody

Johnny Hollman, 62, died during an August arrest.
Body camera footage released shows the moments leading up to Johnny Hollman's death Aug. 10 following a minor car crash in southwest Atlanta.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Body camera footage released shows the moments leading up to Johnny Hollman's death Aug. 10 following a minor car crash in southwest Atlanta.

Body camera footage released Wednesday morning captures the police encounter that left a 62-year-old church deacon dead. Johnny Hollman was stunned with a Taser and put into handcuffs by an Atlanta police officer following a minor crash.

The police officer involved was fired and the Atlanta Police Department changed its policies after the incident.

The death was ruled a homicide, caused by a combination of the officer’s Taser and heart disease, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office. Hollman became unresponsive after he was stunned while being arrested following a car crash Aug. 10 in southwest Atlanta.

“People need to know that what happened to him is not acceptable. What happened to him should not have happened,” said Mawuli Davis, an attorney for the Hollman family, during a vigil Tuesday evening at the First Iconium Baptist Church.

The body camera footage shows Hollman explaining to Officer Kiran Kimbrough what led to the three-vehicle crash. Hollman, a father of five who for 15 years served as chairman of deacons at a southwest Atlanta church, was on his way home and called 911 himself.

Editor’s note: The following video contains disturbing images and language. Viewer discretion is advised. This video is only a portion of the body camera footage released. Moments after the video clip ends, Hollman is shown unresponsive.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Kimbrough states to another driver involved that he had already watched the surveillance footage of the crash. Kimbrough determined that Hollman was the at fault driver and tries to issue him a citation, explaining that it’s not an admission of guilt. Hollman appears to try to explain the crash again and asks to speak with a supervisor.

“You’re going to sign this ticket or I’m going to take you to jail ... You can come to court and fight the ticket,” Kimbrough can be heard saying as Hollman states that he “Didn’t do nothing.”

Kimbrough can then be seen grabbing Hollman’s arm while repeating, “Sign the ticket.” Hollman replies with, “OK. I’m going to sign the ticket.” The situation escalates and Kimbrough appears to force Hollman to the ground, before stating that he would use his Taser.

“I’m going to tase you. Put your arms behind your back now! Put your arms behind back! Put your arms behind your back!” Kimbrough can be heard yelling while on top of Hollman, according to the video.

Hollman can then be heard repeating, “I can’t breathe.”

The struggle continues for only a few more seconds and then Hollman appears to fall unconscious, the video shows. The officer uses his Taser at least three more times and continues yelling for Hollman to put his hands behind his back, according to the body camera footage. Hollman is put into handcuffs and Kimbrough then realizes that Hollman is unconscious.

In a statement from the GBI a day after the incident, Hollman was described as “non-compliant” and the agency said a physical struggle ensued as he was being taken into custody.

During a press conference hours after the release of the video, Davis said the body camera footage becoming public is a “people’s victory.” Davis argues that Hollman was not refusing to sign the citation, but was trying to explain to the officer what led to the crash.

“People are going to look at this video and they’re going to critique it with a fine-tooth comb. Please put it into context. This was an accident. (Hollman) called the police. He waited for over an hour without incident. And then he cried out for help,” Davis said.

Johnny Hollman's family, community members, church leaders and the family's attorney came together Tuesday evening, less than 24 hours before the release of the body camera footage, for a candlelight prayer vigil at the First Iconium Baptist Church.

Credit: Caroline Silva

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Credit: Caroline Silva

Hollman’s daughter Arnitra Fallins said during the Tuesday vigil that “now the world gets to see who our father really was and what really happened to him.” She listened to 17 minutes and 46 seconds of the encounter while on the phone with her father. She said she vividly remembers those last minutes and how her father begged for help.

“I heard the officer being outrageous. I heard the officer being very disrespectful in the way he was talking to my father,” she said.

Davis said his law firm continues to investigate and evaluate the evidence, adding that a large part of the evidence is the body camera footage.

In early October, the Atlanta Police Department announced that Kimbrough had been fired for reportedly failing to follow the department’s standard operating procedures while trying to arrest Hollman. According to the department, Kimbrough should have called a supervisor to the scene before arresting the deacon for refusing to sign his traffic ticket.

APD changed its policy in the wake of the deacon’s death, instructing officers not to arrest drivers for refusing to sign traffic citations. Going forward, the department said, police will simply write “refusal to sign” on the ticket.

The policy change came after Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens ordered a top-to-bottom review of the incident, he said in a statement distributed moments after the footage was released.

“I know it is critically important for the City of Atlanta to continually assess, evaluate and adjust how our public safety departments carry out their sworn mission to serve and protect our citizens,” Dickens said. “When there is a tragic circumstance, we afford due process for the officers involved while also letting the evidence drive the decision. In this case, the evidence was clear regarding a violation of the department’s standard operating procedures.”

Johnny Hollman died Aug. 10 while being arrested in southwest Atlanta following a minor crash.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Hollman’s official cause of death is listed as “cardiac dysrhythmia due to use of (a Taser) in association with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” according to the autopsy report. He also had underlying conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and obesity, which medical examiner Melissa Sims-Stanley determined contributed to his death.

Before drawing her conclusions, Sims-Stanley said she reviewed body camera footage and concluded that “Based on my review and interpretation of the video, Mr. Hollman is unresponsive from the time that the energy device (Taser) is deployed,” she said in the report.

Dickens said he is grateful for those in the community who have supported Hollman’s family since his death.

“The video will be difficult to watch for many people, especially the family of Mr. Hollman. I continue to extend my deepest sympathy to them and hold them close in my thoughts and prayers,” he said.