Georgia student in police beating video says he feared for his life

Posted at 9:14 PM, Apr 17, 2017

ATLANTA — The 21-year-old Georgia college student seen on cell phone video being beaten by two Georgia police officers says he thought he was going to die during the traffic stop on April 12.

Demetrius Hollins was pulled over on a busy suburban Atlanta road by Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni for not having a license plate, according to the police report.

Hollins said the license plate was in the rear window.

He also said he recognized Bongiovanni from an August 2016 traffic stop.

“That’s when I reached over to get my phone,” Hollins told CNN on Monday.

“[Bongiovanni] started yelling at me and saying that I’m not going to get video of this, ‘You’re not going to make any phone calls, nobody is going to know about this,'” Hollins said.

Hollins said Bongiovanni ordered him to get out of the car. Cell phone video recorded by a witness and posted on social media shows Hollins getting out of the car with his hands up.

Demetrius Hollins, a 21-year-old Georgia college student, is seen on cell phone video being beaten by two Georgia police officers says he thought he was going to die during the traffic stop on April 12, 2017.

“I tried to let him know I didn’t have anything where I could hurt him and, of course, me getting out with my hands up, that means basically I’m surrendering,” Hollins said.

Bongiovanni wrote in the police report that Hollins resisted arrest: “Hollins refused to place his hands behind his back, spun around and began to actively resist arrest by bending at the waist and trying to push me away.”

The cell phone video does not show Hollins attempting to push Bongiovanni.

Seconds later, the video shows Bongiovanni strike Hollins in the face with his elbow.

There is no mention of the strike in the police report.

“This sergeant, in his report, tried to portray Demetrius as some type of criminal he had to defend himself against, but really it’s the exact opposite,” Hollins’s attorney Justin Miller said.

Second officer on the scene

“After I got my hands up and he hit me, that’s when he stepped back and tased me in the back,” Hollins said. “I fell to the ground and then that’s when it stopped. The Taser stopped and that’s when he just did it again,” Hollins said.

As he lay on the asphalt, Hollins said he had one goal: Don’t move.

“He put me in handcuffs and I thought the whole ordeal was just over with and that’s when I seen another officer come out of nowhere and straight drop-kick me in the face; just stomp on my face,” Hollins said.

A second video posted to social media shows Gwinnett County Police Officer Robert McDonald kicking Hollins.

The Gwinnett County Police Department fired both officers on Thursday.

“The revelations uncovered in this entire investigation are shocking. We are fortunate that this second video was found and we were able to move swiftly to terminate a supervisor who lied and stepped outside of his training and state law,” the department said in a press release.

A previous incident

Wednesday’s traffic stop was not the first encounter for Hollins, Bongiovanni and McDonald. Bongiovanni pulled Hollins over in the same car and near the same intersection several months ago. According to Bongiovanni’s August 2016 report, Hollins was pulled over for a broken tail light. The sergeant said he smelled marijuana and found a loaded gun, a scale with “green leafy material” on it and a bottle with a fake compartment with green, leafy material inside.

The Gwinnett County Solicitor-General has dismissed that case against Hollins along with 88 other cases in which Bongiovanni and McDonald were the principal officers or necessary witnesses.

“The actions of these officers completely undermine their credibility and they cannot be relied upon as witnesses in any pending prosecution,” the Solicitor-General’s office said in a news release Friday.

A criminal investigation has been launched into each officer.

“These are crimes. It’s not something that you do in the line of duty. They are above and beyond the scope of what a police officer should be doing,” Miller said. “If these officers saw Demetrius do what they did to him to someone else, they would immediately put him in jail and he’d be tried and convicted — so, we want the same thing to happen to them,” Miller added.

Mike Puglise, an attorney for Bongiovanni, did not address the case specifically in an email response to questions from CNN. He said his client “served the citizens of Gwinnett County with honor and distinction. His efforts have been a reflection of his foremost desire to keep this community and its citizens safe.”

According to Puglise, McDonald does not yet have an attorney. CNN has been unable to contact McDonald.