The 21-year-old African American college student who was punched, tased and stomped by two white Gwinnett County Police officers on Wednesday thanked members of the community who recorded his encounter — video that led to the officers being fired and criminal charges against him being dropped.
But during a Saturday morning press conference, Demetrius Hollins’ attorney said the actions taken so far by the Gwinnett County Police are not enough.
“We want both of these officers criminally charged,” attorney Justin D. Miller said as
Hollins and his mother, Tamara Crenshaw, looked on. “We want them to have to stand before a Gwinnett County judge in a courtroom full of Gwinnett County citizens, with their legs shacked, and their hands cuffed behind their back.
“And then we want them to spend the night in the Gwinnett County jail in the general population away from their family and friends. We want them to feel what Demetrius was forced to feel. Maybe then it will click to them what they did to this young man was atrocious and unacceptable and truly unbecoming of law enforcement officers.”
Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and Master Officer Robert McDonald have both been fired and the county’s solicitor general dismissed 89 cases worked by the two. All the cases were traffic or misdemeanor offenses.
Video first surfaced Thursday of McDonald stomping on Hollins’ head as he lay handcuffed on the roadway. McDonald was quickly fired. But later Thursday a second video surfaced showing Bongiovanni punching Hollins with either his fist or his forearm.
Hollins said during the press conference he dreams of a career in film production, and enjoys making videos and collecting sneakers in his spare time. He called the encounter with police on Wednesday “the scariest moment of my life.”
“The truth would never have come to life without these videos,” Hollins said, reading from a prepared statement. “No one would have believed that I did nothing to provoke an assault I suffered at the hands of these two Gwinnett County police officers. Even now, there are still many people who see me as a criminal, not as a college student or as a son.”
Crenshaw, Hollins’ mother, called the people who took the videos “brave and unselfish.”
“If it were not for you, I believe … these two police officers would have gotten away with this, and my son would be just another young male bound to the system,” Crenshaw said. “With that being said, words cannot express the shock, anguish, hurt, disbelief, anger, distress and outrage that this has brought to our family.
“This situation has traumatized all of us.”
Miller said they still have not made a decision about a potential lawsuit, but they are asking for a large volume of information from the police department and solicitor’s office, including: a full accounting of the officers’ histories with the department; an investigation into departmental hiring policies; the psychological evaluation for the officers; departmental training practices; disciplinary records of the two officers and every officer in Bongiovanni’s unit; along with a list of the names and contact information for all the people whose cases were dismissed by the solicitor’s office.
A police spokesman said the department wants to “continue being transparent and decisive about this entire incident.”
“Our actions thus far speak to our stance on this situation,” Corporal Deon Washington wrote in an email. “There is also an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Miller acknowledge Hollins had a gun in his car during a previous encounter with Bongiovanni in August, but he said that the gun was legally owned and stored in the car. He said Bongiovanni also punched Hollins’ during that encounter.
“He’s not a thug,” Miller said of Hollins. “The only thugs that were involved in this incident are Sgt. Bongiovanni and officer McDonald, because only a thug would treat a human the way they treated Demetrius.”
Miller said his office has been contacted by three or four other people claiming to have been mistreated by the officers.
Bongiovanni’s attorney, Mike Pugliese, told Channel 2 Action News Friday what his client did not use not excessive force: “It was an elbow strike, an FBI-taught defensive tactic.”