An attorney representing a former Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the FBI task force shooting of Jimmy Atchison has asked that his client’s case be moved to federal court.
Sung Kim, a 26-year-veteran of the police department, shot Atchison Jan. 22, 2019, while working on a federal fugitive task force. Officers chased Atchison through a northwest Atlanta apartment complex before surrounding him as he hid inside a woman’s closet.
The 21-year-old father of two was wanted for allegedly stealing a woman’s cellphone at gunpoint, though he was unarmed at the time of his death.
Atchison’s family said he was given conflicting commands while hiding from officers beneath a pile of clothes. One task force member told him to come out with his hands up. Another told him not to move, according to family attorney Tanya Miller.
Kim later told investigators he shot Atchison because he saw him make a sudden movement with his right arm “as if he was going to shoot him.”
Kim retired from the police department months after Atchison’s shooting, but was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in December. He faces several charges, including murder, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter and violating his oath of office. He turned himself in after the indictment and was released on $50,000 bond.
In a recent filing, defense attorney Don Samuel asked that Kim’s case be transferred from Fulton County Superior Court, citing his client’s role with the FBI’s Atlanta Metropolitan Major Offender Task Force at the time of the shooting.
“At all relevant times, Kim was acting under color of federal law, pursuant to his deputation as a member of the FBI AMMO Task Force,” Samuel wrote.
He said Kim knew Atchison had previously robbed someone at gunpoint and instructed him not to move after finding him in the closet.
“Disobeying this lawful command, Atchison raised his right arm in a fast motion,” Samuel wrote. Reasonably fearing for his safety and the safety of his colleagues who were present in the room, Kim shot and killed Atchison.”
At the time of the shooting, federal policy prohibited task force members from wearing body cameras. The deadly encounter was not captured on video despite APD’s policy requiring its officers to wear cameras.
The FBI has since changed its policy, allowing federally deputized officers to activate their body camera while serving warrants, executing searches or making arrests.
Former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard had said he was prepared to seek charges against Kim in March 2020, but that became impossible after COVID-19 suspended virtually all grand jury proceedings in the state for more than a year.
When current DA Attorney Fani Willis took office the following year, she said that her staff was working through a “large backlog” of police use-of-force incidents. She has since indicted numerous current and former law enforcement officers in years-old cases.
Her office also indicted two members of a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force in the 2016 killing of Jamarion Robinson. Robinson, 26, was shot nearly 60 times during a shootout with authorities who had come to arrest him at his girlfriend’s East Point apartment.
In 2021, two members of that task force — Eric Heinze and Kristopher Hutchens — were indicted on murder charges in Fulton County.
U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Calvert moved the case to federal court last year following a daylong hearing where attorneys for both defendants argued they were acting within the scope of their federal duties. (Samuel, Kim’s attorney, also represents Hutchens in that case.)
Atchison’s father, Jimmy Hill, never gave up hope that charges would be brought in his son’s killing. He called repeatedly for the DA’s office to present the case to a grand jury and frequently held rallies outside the Fulton courthouse calling for Kim’s indictment.
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