By: Matt Scott
Update: A press release sent out Monday morning by Mawuli Davis, attorney for the Hollman family, stated, “We have confirmed with District Attorney Fani Willis’ office that the body camera footage of Deacon Johnny Hollman’s death will be released in the next 24 hours.”
On Monday, Fulton County District Attorney (DA) Fani Willis is expected to release body camera footage of the police killing of Deacon Johnny Hollman that took place in August, according to the Hollman family’s attorney Mawuli Davis.
In September, the Hollman family and their attorneys viewed approximately five minutes of the body camera footage. Several family members were unable to finish watching the footage due to the brutal nature of its content. The family called for the officer who killed Hollman to be charged with murder and held several demonstrations calling for the public release of the body camera video.
The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging the Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to release the body camera footage in early October. The APD released a statement responding that request saying the killing was still under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the footage could not be released at the time. The family then turned to DA Willis to request the footage be released.
On Friday, the GBI informed the Atlanta Community Press Collective that their investigation was complete and the findings had been turned over to the Fulton County DA’s office.
Willis would be responsible for prosecuting the case, should her office decide to bring charges against the officer who killed Hollman.
It remains unclear when and how the body camera footage would be released on Monday.
Still, the family and attorneys were confident that Willis will release the footage. “She’s moved in a transparent way with us,” Davis said of Willis during a Zoom meeting with family members, media and organizers on Thursday afternoon.
The Hollman family plans to gather with supporters at First Iconium Baptist Church in East Atlanta Village when the footage is released. Davis says there will be a press conference at the church an hour after the release of the video. Family, friends, and supporters are expected to speak at the press conference.
The timing of the release comes just days before Thanksgiving, raising concerns from the family and organizers that the footage will be forgotten over the holiday. Organizers are planning demonstrations and rallies in the days after the footage is released and have reached out to activists outside of Atlanta to call for solidarity demonstrations elsewhere in the country.
“Be accurate in your recounting of what happened but talk about it,” Davis said during the Zoom meeting. “We’re encouraging organizers and community members to talk about it, so it doesn’t become yesterday’s news during the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Publicly releasing the body camera footage will help answer questions surrounding the killing of Hollman. Initial police reports said Hollman struggled against the officer for several minutes before the officer used his taser to subdue the man. The Hollman family said that it was the officer who needlessly escalated the situation.
Atlanta Police Department (APD) Officer Kiran Kimbrough responded to a routine traffic accident call between Hollman and another driver on Aug. 10. Kimbrough attempted to cite Hollman for the accident, but the deacon did not believe he was at fault and initially refused to sign the citation. The officer then tried to arrest Hollman, firing his taser into the man and using physical force to restrain him. Hollman is said to have told Kimbrough “I can’t breathe” at least sixteen times.
Hollman died at Grady Hospital a short while later. A medical examiner determined homicide was the cause of death.
In a press release published to the department’s website hours after Hollman’s death, the APD said the man “became agitated and uncooperative,” but his family and their attorney, Mawuli Davis, say that is untrue. An October press release sent out by the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law Firm said, “Deacon Hollman told Officer Kimbrough he would sign the ticket, but the officer still grabbed him, took him to the ground, and began tasing him.”
The APD fired Kimbrough after conducting an internal investigation into the death of Hollman. The department determined that Kimbrough failed to follow policy by not calling for a supervisor before attempting to arrest Hollman for refusing to sign the citation.
Mayor Dickens directed the APD to change its policies regarding how officers should handle a driver refusing to sign a traffic citation. The previous policy allowed for the arrest of drivers who refused to sign, under the new policy the officer is to mark “refused to sign” on the signature line and hand the driver a copy of the ticket.