National News

Family speaks out on $3.8 million settlement following Atlanta deacon’s death after tasing

todayMay 9, 2024

Background

Davis Bozeman Johnson Law

(NEW YORK) — The family of Johnny Hollman, the 62-year-old Atlanta deacon who died after an Atlanta police officer tased him following a minor crash in August 2023, spoke out after reaching a $3.8 million settlement with the city of Atlanta.

“[The settlement] will never value my father’s life,” Hollman’s daughter, Arnitra Hollman, told ABC’s GMA3 co-anchor DeMarco Morgan in an exclusive interview set to air on Thursday.

“$3.8 million will never give us closure. We will live with this pain for the rest of our lives. This is our new normal,” she added.

The Atlanta City Council unanimously voted in favor of the settlement on Monday night, agreeing to pay $3.8 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed in January by the Hollman family against the city of Atlanta, former police officer Kiran Kimbrough and Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.

The complaint, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, alleged that “unlawful use of excessive force” led to Hollman’s death after the deacon was tased while resisting arrest for refusing to sign a citation saying that he was at fault in a minor crash.

ABC News reached out to the Atlanta Police Department and Kimbrough’s attorney, but requests for comment were not immediately returned.

Hollman family attorney Harold Spence told GMA3 that the settlement is a “clear acknowledgment that they understood that there was a wrong that needed to be righted.”

The settlement comes amid an ongoing investigation into the deacon’s death on Aug. 10, 2023, by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

Asked about the settlement and the status of the investigation, a spokesperson for the DA’s office told ABC News that “because the case is still under investigation at this time, we cannot comment.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Hollman family attorney Mawuli Davis said in a statement following the settlement that “While this part of their struggle is coming to a close, this fight for justice will not end until criminal charges are levied.”

Hollman’s death led to policy changes at the Atlanta Police Department that were announced by the city in November 2023.

“What I don’t want to see is this happening to anybody else,” Arnitra Hollman said. “I don’t want this to happen to another family … I want policing policies to change. Traffic violations shouldn’t call for a death sentence.”

Changes implemented following Hollmans’ death include the launch of a civilian response unit to respond to “low risk calls for service,” and allowing officers to write “refusal to sign” when an individual refuses to sign a traffic citation, as opposed to requiring arrest, according to a November 2023 city press release.

“My thoughts remain with the Hollman family, and while nothing can undo what has been done, my priority was to get this family as close to full closure from this unfortunate tragedy as soon as possible,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens told ABC News in a written statement following the settlement. “Significant changes to procedures following the incident have been made, which include the new CARES unit—whose first members’ training should conclude next month.”

What the body camera video shows

Body camera video released by the Atlanta Police Department (APD) in November 2023 shows an argument ensuing between Hollman and Kimbrough after the deacon refused to sign a traffic citation, saying he was at fault in the minor crash.

The one hour and six-minute-long video showed Hollman repeatedly telling Kimbrough he’d done “nothing wrong,” while Kimbrough threatens to arrest Hollman if he doesn’t sign it.

In the video, the interaction appeared to escalate when Kimbrough attempted to arrest Hollman and the deacon resisted.

During the struggle, Hollman can be heard eventually agreeing to sign the ticket. A tow truck driver, who was called to respond to the crash, can also be seen in the body camera footage helping hold Hollman to the ground.

While being pinned to the ground, Hollman can be heard on the video repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”

The officer first threatened to use his Taser gun on Hollman, and then eventually activated his Taser, video shows. Hollman appeared to become unresponsive almost immediately after being tased. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Arnitra Hollman told ABC News in an August 2023 interview that her father had “chronic asthma” since he was a child.

An autopsy conducted by the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office lists Hollman’s manner of death as “homicide.” The report, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, lists “Cardiac dysrhythmia due to use of a conducted energy device in association with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” as the cause of death.

Kimbrough was initially placed on administrative leave amid an internal investigation but police announced on Oct. 10, 2023 that chief Schierbaum “terminated Officer Kimbrough for failing to follow the department’s standard operating procedures” during Hollman’s arrest by failing to call a supervisor to the scene before attempting to arrest Hollman for failing to sign the traffic citation.

Arnitra Hollman was on the phone with him during the incident for more than 17 minutes and was “likely on the phone with her father at the time he took his last conscious breath,” according to the complaint. When she arrived on the scene, she found him “on the ground, motionless,” the lawsuit alleges.

Reflecting on her last conversation with her father as the nine-month anniversary of his death approaches on Friday, Arnitra Hollman told Morgan, “He just kept calling on Jesus’ name towards the end. It’s like his voice was getting lower and lower and lower.”

“I still can remember his voice. I can still hear him scream. I can still hear his wallow,” she added. “I can still see how he was. He didn’t deserve that.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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