In April 2017, Atlanta-area Black man Demetrius Hollins was pulled over by Gwinett County police in an incident that ended the way stories of cops pulling over Black people often end; with a violent arrest and a Black body being treated like a human piñata.
Four years later, Hollins’ attorneys have announced the then-22-year-old is filing a lawsuit against the county, the Gwinnet police department, the former police chief, and the two now-former officers who were criminally charged in the use-of-force incident.
Man beaten, kicked in head during 2017 Gwinnett County traffic stop files lawsuit https://t.co/8fs0QK64up
— 11Alive News (@11AliveNews) September 22, 2021
According to 11 Alive, ex-officer Robert McDonald, who was seen on camera kicking Hollins’ in the head and pointing a gun at his head while he was already on the ground handcuffed, was convicted of aggravated assault, battery, and violating his oath of office. He was sentenced to 10 years probation.
Ex-Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni, who took a plea deal and testified against McDonald after he was seen taking his forearm to Hollins’ face while his hands were up before his partner arrived, pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and battery and was sentenced to six months in a work-release program in addition to 10 years probation.
Both former officers were subsequently fired.
It’s unclear why Hollins was pulled over and arrested in the first place, or what prompted Bongiovanni to hit him—well, besides the fact that existing while Black often makes one a magnet for cop fists, forearms, batons, boots, tasers, and bullets—but McDonald testified in court that he was told Bongiovanni was in the middle of a fight with Hollins, that he didn’t see Hollins was already handcuffed and that he was trying to pin him down with his foot, not kick him in the face.
McDonald apparently doesn’t understand how video footage works, because anyone with two eyes can see him walking towards the victim with plenty of time to see that he was clearly on the ground, clearly handcuffed, and clearly not in the middle of a fight with anyone.
Also, while Bongiovanni was dry-snitching on his former partner in court, McDonald’s attorney, Walt Britt, was arguing that Bongiovanni “is the one that set these events into motion” when he “hit that man just as hard as he could with his forearm.” Britt said Bongiovanni simply used McDonald as a scapegoat to cover for his own misconduct. (Oh, what to do about all this blue-on-blue crime?)
Anyway, Hollins’ lawsuit claims he “suffered severe burn marks to the back of his neck, a busted lip, severe swelling and bruising to most of his face, which caused permanent scarring to his chin, nose, and lower lip,” according to 11 Alive.
“The traumatic and unjustifiable abuse of being punched in the face, tased, and kicked in the face by sworn police officers for no good reason, in the middle of a busy public roadway and intersection in broad daylight, has caused significant mental and emotional shock, humiliation, distress and trauma, and serious and ongoing psychological and emotional injuries which Plaintiff still experiences today,” the lawsuit states.