Four years after an Atlanta police officer killed 21-year-old Jimmy Atchison, his father spoke in front of a United Nations delegation to the U.S. about their family’s continued fight for justice.
“We knew from day one, the shooting of my son was not justified and should never have happened,” Atchison’s father, Jimmy Hill, told the U.N. delegation at the Auburn Avenue Research Library auditorium in late April.
The delegation, called the Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, was created in 2021 after protests broke out across the country following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. Under the umbrella of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the members visited Atlanta as a part of visits they are making to the United States, which also included stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
Based on these visits, they will create a report with recommendations for policy reforms for U.S. law enforcement in line with international human rights standards. The report will be presented during the September session of the Human Rights Council.
During their visit to Atlanta, the delegation heard from the family members of a number of Black residents who have been killed by law enforcement. Two families who spoke to the U.N. said they hope to bring awareness to the barriers they’ve faced while trying to get justice for their loved one.
‘Kill, hide behind your badge’
Atchison, a 21-year-old father of two, was killed by Atlanta police officer Sung Kim on Jan. 22, 2019.
Kim had an arrest warrant for armed robbery, alleging that Atchinson had stolen a woman’s cellphone at gunpoint.
After a foot chase, officers confronted Atchison hiding in a closet at a friend’s apartment in northwest Atlanta. One officer told him not to move, while the other told him to come out with his hands raised. He was killed while exiting the closet.
After he was killed, a witness came forward to say Atchison never committed the crime, and that she told APD there was no gun or force involved in the alleged armed robbery.
Hill said he and Cynthia Atchison, Jimmy’s mother, had been fighting together for justice until her death in May 2022. During the meeting with the delegation, Hill was accompanied by Tammie Featherstone, Jimmy’s aunt. She said telling their own story and hearing testimonies from other families really opened her eyes to the similarities in their experiences.
“The reason for the officer shooting every child that was spoken about today was they felt threatened. And the reason why the officers are not charged is qualified immunity,” Featherstone said.
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government officials from being sued unless it is shown they violated the victim’s constitutional rights. During this year’s legislative session, three state representatives introduced a bill to repeal qualified immunity that did not make it out of committee.
“One shot to the head, just below Jimmy’s left eye. Instant death,” Hill told the U.N. delegation.
After the shooting, Kim later told investigators he thought he saw a gun. Atchison was unarmed.
“They all say that they think they saw a gun or think that the person had a gun,” Feathersone said. “That’s their way of covering the murder, by saying they think that they saw a gun or they felt threatened, because then you have a reason to defend yourself.”
“Kill, hide behind your badge, and tell a lie that you fear for your life,” Hill added.
At the time of the shooting, Kim and the other officers were serving on the FBI Atlanta Metropolitan Major Offender (AMMO) Task Force, AJC reported. Kim and the other officers were not wearing body cameras at the time because the FBI did not allow it. The FBI has since changed its policy.
Hill said the families of other victims often tell him he should have an easy case because his son was unarmed and surrendering at the time of the shooting.
For Hill, the path to justice has not been a clear one.
Kim was charged with murder in Fulton County Superior Court in December 2022. In January, Kim’s attorney filed to have the case moved to federal court because he was acting as a member of an FBI task force at the time of the shooting.
Atchison’s family wants to see the case stay in state court because Kim was employed by the Atlanta Police Department and was serving a state warrant at the time of the shooting, and they believe federal court is more likely to grant officers qualified immunity.
The judge is expected to decide whether to move the case to federal court by early June.
‘We couldn’t find Le’den’s body’
Toni Franklin-Boykins said her son Le’den, 12, their neighbor Charlie Moore, and his 14-year-old son noticed they were being followed while driving home in Paulding County after midnight on Sept. 10, 2021.
Moore did not realize the car following them was a Georgia State Patrol officer and pulled over to the side of the road to let them pass, but the officer pulled over behind them.
That’s when Franklin-Boykins said the Georgia State Patrol officer turned on his dashcam and approached Moore’s car to ask for his license and registration.
Moore asked why he was being pulled over, but he wasn’t given a reason, the dashcam video shows. He asked for a supervisor. The officer didn’t call a supervisor and instead called for backup. Three Paulding County sheriff’s officers were dispatched while Moore continued to ask for a supervisor.
After an officer tried to reach in the car to pull Moore out, Moore rolled up his window and told them they weren’t allowed to do that. He was still parked on the side of the road talking to officers with the window up. After Moore made it clear he wasn’t going to exit the car, the officers busted out his windows.
That’s when Moore pulled off and a chase ensued.
On the 911 tape, Moore is heard repeatedly telling the dispatcher there are kids in the car. Franklin-Boykins said the police initially tried to say they didn’t see the kids in the car. “They tried to say, the person that was in the passenger side seat looked like a huge figure. … My son is maybe 4’11”, 70 pounds at the most,” she said.
Shortly afterward, the officer executed a PIT maneuver on the car that flipped it over. Le’den Boykins was the only person killed, 18 days shy of his 13th birthday.
She and her husband were out of state at a funeral when Le’den was killed. Franklin-Boykins said her son is not considered a victim, and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation review found no wrongdoing.
“I have not been contacted by anybody from the state of Georgia, no victim’s advocate, no police officer ever came to our door,” she said. “When we got back here, our house was full of people, all my neighborhood, all his friends and everybody. But we couldn’t find Le’den’s body.”
Le’den Boykins was killed just after midnight on Friday morning, but according to his mother, the family didn’t get to see his body until the following Monday.
“They gave us the runaround on where his body was, which caused us to get an attorney, who was able to get in contact with GBI and have his body taken to Willie Watkins [Funeral Home] on [Ralph David] Abernathy [Boulevard], an hour away from our house in Paulding County,” she said.
Franklin-Boykins said the state performed an autopsy on her son without contacting her, and she still hasn’t received an answer as to why.
“The coroner’s report states that somebody named Shonda came and identified my baby’s body and said that she was speaking on behalf of the family because we were on our way back from Michigan,” she said. “And in one of the [other] reports, it states that my mom came to the hospital and identified my son.”
Franklin-Boykins said she doesn’t know who Shonda is, and her mother couldn’t have gone to the hospital because she can’t drive.
The family is still waiting for the state to release her son’s belongings, including his cellphone. None of the officers involved in the chase have been charged in Boykin’s death.
However, Charlie Moore was arrested the day of the crash and remains incarcerated. He’s being charged with 27 misdemeanors and five felonies in connection with the crash. Misdemeanor charges include aggressive driving, speeding and five counts of giving the wrong signal. The felony charges are murder, aggravated assault against a police officer, murder during the commission of a felony, first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI for refusing a breathalyzer, and endangering a child while driving under the influence.
Franklin-Boykins said the family’s attorney was told by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office that there was nothing they could do about the case.
“My attorney said that we have to take it to Washington because the GBI didn’t find any wrongdoings,” she said. “They didn’t even let us know that they had concluded their investigation.”
Franklin-Boykins said she and her husband are determined to get their son’s story out there.
Le’den Boykins was killed Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. An earlier version of this story misidentified the day of the week.