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Atlanta awards $3.8M settlement in death of man who was TASERed after refusing to sign traffic ticket

The Atlanta Police Department changed its policy in the wake of the incident, instructing officers not to arrest drivers for refusing to sign traffic citations

Custody Death Lawsuit

FILE - In this image taken from police bodycam video provided by the Atlanta Police Department, Johnny Hollman Sr. speaks with Officer Kiran Kimbrough on Aug. 10, 2023 in Atlanta. The Atlanta City Council has agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of Hollman, a church deacon who died in a struggle with a city police officer following a minor car crash. (Atlanta Police Department via AP, File)


By Riley Bunch and Shaddi Abusaid
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — The Atlanta City Council on Monday approved a $3.8 million settlement with the family of church deacon Johnny Hollman, who died while being arrested after a minor car crash in Atlanta last August.

Attorneys for the family filed a federal lawsuit over Hollman’s death in January, lodging civil rights claims against the City of Atlanta, police Chief Darin Schierbaum and former Officer Kiran Kimbrough.

The lawsuit alleged that Kimbrough used excessive force in tasing Hollman, “resulting in his death.”

Council members unanimously passed the legislation signing-off on the settlement amount after briefly going into executive session.

The 62-year-old became unresponsive after being stunned with a Taser and put into handcuffs by Kimbrough following a crash in southwest Atlanta, and after refusing to sign a ticket written by the officer.

Body camera footage released in November by Atlanta police shows the entire encounter. At one point, Kimbrough can be seen grabbing Hollman’s arm while repeating, “Sign the ticket.” Hollman replies with, “OK. I’m going to sign the ticket.” Kimbrough then appears to force Hollman to the ground, before stating that he would use his Taser.

Hollman can then be heard repeating, “I can’t breathe.” The struggle continues for only a few more seconds and then Hollman appears to fall unconscious, the video shows.

The family’s lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force, violating Hollman’s First Amendment right through physical retaliation, failing to provide him with medical care, physically restraining him and ultimately leading to his “wrongful death.”

Attorneys Harold Spence and Mawuli Davis, who represent the Hollman family, said they were pleased with the settlement amount. They praised Hollman’s children for their tireless work and said the deacon’s death brought about two significant changes.

APD changed its policy in the wake of the incident, instructing officers not to arrest drivers for refusing to sign traffic citations. Going forward, the department said, police will simply write “refusal to sign” on the ticket.

“No citizen will ever again be arrested for an alleged refusal to sign a traffic citation,” Spence said in a phone interview after the City Council approved the settlement. “That’s a change that will affect countless individuals.”

Fulton County District Attorney’s Office also changed its policy on the release of officers’ body-worn camera footage in use-of-force cases. Now body camera footage can be released once all the witnesses have been interviewed, Davis said.

Before that, the process could take months or even years.

Though nothing can bring Hollman back, both attorneys said that in the end, the city of Atlanta did right by his grieving family.

“We recognize this, not just as a victory for their family, but really an acknowledgement of the importance of community in these fights for justice,” Davis said.

Though a settlement was reached, Davis said the Hollman family’s fight would continue “until those responsible are criminally prosecuted.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement Monday that along with the policy changes, the city will soon implement its new CARES program, which consists of civilian units that will respond to minor traffic offenses, accidents, and incidents of theft instead of sworn officers.

“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,” Dickens said.

Reporter Caroline Silva contributed to this story.

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