The Atlanta City Council on Monday called for police to release body camera video of Johnny Hollman’s fatal encounter with an officer, responding to nearly two months of passionate pleas from the 62-year-old church deacon’s relatives.
The council members unanimously approved a resolution urging Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta Police Department to release the footage, which some of Hollman’s family members have seen. The father of five died after an officer stunned him with a Taser following a traffic accident on Aug. 10.
The resolution was introduced after Hollman’s children addressed the legislators during the public comment period of Monday’s City Council meeting. One by one, speakers wearing T-shirts that demanded “Justice for Chairman Deacon Johnny” approached the speaker’s podium demanding that officials “release the tape!” Their pleas elicited tears and applause from the audience. At least four of Hollman’s adult children were among those who spoke.
The wait has taken a toll on the family, relatives told the council. Santeesh Crews-Williams, Hollman’s daughter, said her son “can’t eat, can’t sleep” and has been struggling to finish his last year of high school as a result of what happened to his grandfather.
“I’m angry. I’m hurt, and I’m emotional,” Crews-Williams told council members. “My children are falling apart. I’m falling apart.”
Hollman was leaving Bible study on the evening of Aug. 10 when he was involved in a traffic accident on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard in the West End.
After the accident, Hollman called 911 for help. Atlanta police officer Kiran Kimbrough, 23, responded to the call and tried to issue Hollman a traffic citation.
When Hollman refused to sign the ticket, Kimbrough attempted to arrest him, according to authorities, stunning him with a Taser and placing him in handcuffs before noticing Hollman was unresponsive.
Kimbrough called EMS to the scene. Hollman was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In a statement released a month after Hollman’s death, the Atlanta Police Department said they updated standard operating procedures to allow an officer to write “refusal to sign” on a citation instead of making an arrest.
The Hollman family was allowed to view Kimbrough’s body camera footage from the incident nearly a month after the deacon’s death. In a press conference after viewing the footage, the family’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, called Hollman’s death “senseless.”
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Hollman’s daughter Myteka Burdett became choked up while describing her family’s pain. She said she was “pissed” that she has to take off work to travel to fight for justice for her father, while Kimbrough gets to sit at home comfortably earning a taxpayer-funded salary on paid administrative leave as a result of his actions.
She indicated Hollman helped campaign for Dickens to get elected.
“Please release the video, so the world can see how my father was killed in these Atlanta streets that he helped build,” Burdett said. “The streets he walked door to door with his kids and grandkids, campaigning with his kids, grandkids, to get you, Deacon Andre Dickens, to be our mayor, to be the change that we need.”
City Attorney Nina Hickson has said the city can choose not to release the video because the Georgia Open Records Act allows footage from an incident to be withheld while it is under active investigation.
At the direction of Dickens, APD opened its own internal investigation into Hollman’s death in addition to the GBI probe.
Crews-Williams questioned why Hollman’s family should believe the GBI, since its investigators “wear the same colors” as Kimbrough.
“Y’all think we believe anything y’all have to say?” Crews-Williams said. “Release the tape!”