Attorney: Two Gwinnett County officers who punched client are “thugs”


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.

MORE: Fired Georgia police officers had history with each other, suspect

RELATED: 7 things to know about Gwinnett police brutality case

“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.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Atlanta mayoral candidates trade jabs at heated debate
Atlanta mayoral candidates trade jabs at heated debate

After about an hour of discussing how they would help law enforcement and attack crime, the top eight candidates vying to become Atlanta’s next mayor then attacked one another. They referenced tax liens, brought up unpaid water bills and quoted from a lawsuit. For most of the 90-minute mayoral debate on Sunday evening, the topics centered on...
Coast Guard rescues man 6 miles from Tybee Island
Coast Guard rescues man 6 miles from Tybee Island

A 58-year-old man was rescued Sunday about 6 miles off the coast of Tybee Island, officials said. The man, whose name was not released, was having chest pains while on board the Thomas Jefferson, a 187-foot National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release. Crew members called for help just after...
Driver flees after striking pedestrian on Ga. 400 in Alpharetta, police say
Driver flees after striking pedestrian on Ga. 400 in Alpharetta, police say

A pedestrian in his mid 20s was struck and killed about midnight on Ga. 400, Alpharetta police say. Tyler Keith Piper of Covington was struck by at least one car on Ga. 400 North near the exit ramp for Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta police Officer Jason Muenzer said. Police believe a second vehicle that struck Piper left the scene afterward...
Man who called 911 later charged with murder in Atlanta shooting 
Man who called 911 later charged with murder in Atlanta shooting 

A man who called 911 after a shooting Saturday in southwest Atlanta is now facing murder and aggravated assault charges, police said. Anteria Gordon is back in the Fulton County jail, two years after he was arrested on aggravated assault and criminal weapons charges related to an armed robbery, according to jail records.  This time, Gordon is...
Jimmy Carter: ‘The media have been harder on Trump than any other president’
Jimmy Carter: ‘The media have been harder on Trump than any other president’

Former President Jimmy Carter discusses his cancer diagnosis at the Carter Center in 2015. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com In a must-read interview with the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, former President Jimmy Carter offered Donald Trump his services to negotiate with North Korea’s leader. But her sit-down with the...
More Stories