By: Matt Scott and Sam Barnes
“Ahh, I think he passed out on me,” 23-year-old Atlanta Police Department (APD) Officer Kiran Kimbrough called out over police radio around midnight Friday morning after he deployed his taser while responding to a minor traffic accident, a use-of-force incident that ended in the death of 62-year-old Johnny Hollman.
APD says Hollman became agitated and resistant, but Hollman’s family says Kimbrough escalated the situation.
Hollman’s children told WSB-TV’s Ashli Lincoln that APD escalated the incident and that their father called them so they could hear how the APD officer on scene was speaking to him. The children listened for 17 minutes as they drove to the scene of the accident, hearing their father call for help after Officer Kimbrough tased him. When they arrived on scene, they found officers giving chest compression to their father.
“My daddy told y’all he couldn’t breathe,” said Arnitra Fallins told Lincoln. “He had severe asthma.”
An APD press release sent out Friday afternoon states, “the officer attempted to take the driver into custody, but he resisted and a struggle ensued. After several minutes struggling with the driver, the officer utilized his taser and, with the help of a witness, placed him into handcuffs.”
Recordings of police radio traffic and 911 calls from the incident reveal what sounds like a normal traffic accident incident that escalated suddenly.
Both Hollman and the unnamed second driver made calls to 911 before Kimbrough’s arrival on scene, each told 911 operators they believed the other driver was at fault in the accident.
The unnamed driver accused Hollman of being belligerent and potentially intoxicated.
“I’m just trying to see if he’s under the influence,” the second driver tells a 911 operator.
“I’ll go ahead and update that here for responding officers, so they know what’s going on,” the 911 operator responded.
“Somebody ran into my truck,” Hollman told the 911 operator who answered his call.
The unnamed driver called a second time approximately 30-40 minutes after the initial call, according to what he tells the 911 operator. Hollman can be heard in the background talking to the second driver at the start of the call.
“I know I’m in the right,” Hollman said.
“I feel like I’m in the right too,” the unnamed driver responded. Both men waited at least an hour after the accident before Kimbrough arrived.
While APD claims the struggle lasted for several minutes, there are no additional calls from scene until 11:57 p.m., when suddenly a distressed sounding Kimbrough radioed dispatch to request another unit 59, or “meet with” in APD’s code.
“59, right away,” Kimbrough called, asking for backup to come quickly.
Two minutes later, an APD Lieutenant watching Kimbrough’s body camera live stream briefly changed that call to a 63, or “officer in need of help,” which would have sped up other officers’ response time. Moments after, the lieutenant reduced the help call back to a 59 because someone was assisting Kimbrough.
“Alright, he’s got someone with him,” the lieutenant said. “Slow ‘em down. Still make it a 59 right away.”
No other APD officers had reported in as on scene at the time. APD’s press release credits a witness with assisting in the arrest of Hollman, it is unclear if that witness is the second driver who had previously accused Hollman of being belligerent and drunk.
At midnight, Kimbrough called over the radio that he had deployed his taser and requested an ambulance to the scene.
“Start me a supervisor for use of force please,” said Kimbrough. “Start Grady as well.”
The APD lieutenant monitoring Kimbrough’s body camera radioed a minute later, instructing Kimbrough to, “give [Hollman] a sternum rub,” a technique used to test consciousness through engaging in a painful stimulus that elicits a response in conscious or semi-conscious individuals.
At some point Hollman suffered a physical injury beyond those caused by a taser.
“Radio, step it up,” Kimbrough said, referring to the ambulance, “this guy’s bleeding pretty bad.”
Then Kimbrough called, “ahh, I think he passed out on me,” at 12:02 a.m.
“I need Grady or fire coming code three,” Kimbrough told the dispatcher. Code three is APD’s fastest response condition.
“What do you have going on? Grady’s already been notified,” a dispatcher asked Kimbrough at 12:03 a.m. Kimbrough repeats his initial request but does not specify what condition Hollman is in or what injuries he may have.
“You need to start [the fire department], this guy needs medical attention right now,” Kimbrough responded.
An Atlanta Fire Rescue Department engine and advanced life support (ALS) Grady ambulance were separately dispatched at 12:06 a.m.
“Are you OK?” the lieutenant asked Kimbrough over the air, while Hollman remained presumably unconscious and unresponsive.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” he responded. “My lip’s busted.”
The fire engine and ambulance arrive at around 12:11 a.m., spending approximately 11 minutes on scene before EMTs and fire medics jointly transported Hollman to Grady.
“Show us transporting one patient emergent with two fire riders to Grady,” one of the EMTs radioed to dispatch as they left the scene. “Emergent”, or emergency, is Grady’s highest response level.
Hollman was later pronounced dead at Grady Hospital.
Fallins told the AJC that she saw her father in the hospital after the incident, saying, “you could see he was looking swole. He wasn’t even that big, but he looked swole. And he looked bruised in his face.”
A source within Grady who spoke on condition of anonymity says personnel were told that early Friday morning, APD had killed a person and not to speak to the press about it, but given no further information.
That source, who is familiar with the protocols and standard operating procedures of Grady Emergency Medical Service, explained that 11 minutes is a short time on scene for medical first responders, and combined with the presence of the two fire medics who rode in the ambulance, indicates that Hollman was most likely in cardiac arrest by the time the medical teams arrived.
APD’s press release does not clarify how the routine traffic accident investigation escalated to violence so suddenly.
Atlanta city leadership frequently refers to de-escalation as an important facet of APD curricula.
In a press conference in January announcing the land disturbance permit of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, Mayor Andre Dickens said, “[APD] training includes vital areas like de-escalation techniques, mental health, community-oriented-policing, crisis intervention training as well as Civil Rights history education.”
After the passage of the $67 million funding package for the training center in July, Mayor Dickens called anti-bias training and de-escalation techniques the “north star” for public safety in Atlanta.
From a @southerncenter policy brief: “Of the more than 17,000 state and local police agencies, APD is among 4% that are accredited through by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; and Atlanta, runs several community policing programs.
After Hollman’s death, Tiffany Roberts, Public Policy Director for the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) cited a policy brief from her organization regarding APD’s de-escalation training.
“Despite these several championed achievements,” Robert’s tweeted, “the City of Atlanta’s Use of Force Dashboard gives use a sobering truth: Use of Force reports, generated any time an APD employee applies force or takes an action that results in, or is alleged to result in the injury or death of another person, have increased year-over-year, every year we have available data. To make it plain, despite efforts and initiatives to the contrary, Atlanta’s own data shows that policing violence is trending upward.”
After a year of holding town halls throughout Atlanta on community safety and police violence, SCHR will be hosting a symposium to present their community findings on Aug. 19 at the King Center.
A GBI investigation is underway into the circumstances of Hollman’s death. APD said it also opened an internal investigation and placed the officer on administrative leave.
Atlanta Community Press Collective (ACPC) reached out to APD’s Public Affairs Director Chata M. Spikes to ask how the incident escalated so suddenly and for additional details, including Kimbrough’s personnel file and disciplinary record, the initial report created by 911 dispatchers and body camera footage from the scene.
APD responded directing ACPC to a statement about the death on the department’s website.