Demetrius Hollins’ encounter with two Gwinnett County, Ga., police officers during a traffic stop went viral last week after one officer was seen punching the motorist in his face, and another officer was seen racing to the scene later, only to stomp the young man in his face.
Those officers have since been fired from the Police Department, but now Hollins, a 21-year-old college student, is speaking out about what he says was his fear for his life when he saw the police approach him.
According to CNN, the incident started when Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni pulled Hollins over for not having a license plate, a police report indicates.
Hollins told CNN that the license plate was in the rear window. Nonetheless, upon seeing Bongiovanni, Hollins said, he reached out to grab his cellphone. Hollins said he recognized the (now former) officer from a previous traffic stop back in August 2016 that did not sit well with him.
“[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.
Bongiovanni ordered Hollins out of the car. Cellphone video captured by a bystander shows Hollins getting out of his vehicle with his arms up, only to have Bongiovanni slam his fist into the young man’s face.
“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 his police report that Hollins resisted arrest, claiming that “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 report doesn’t mention the fact that Bongiovanni struck Hollins.
“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’ attorney, Justin Miller, told CNN.
Hollins was also shocked with a Taser at the scene before being put in handcuffs.
“After I got my hands up and [Bongiovanni] 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.”
After that, Hollins was determined not to move again, according to the news network. However, that didn’t stop a second police officer, Robert McDonald, from running to the scene and kicking Hollins, who was now handcuffed, in the head.
“[Bongiovanni] 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.
Another witness recorded the kick on camera.
“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 Gwinnett County Police Department said in a press release.
Both officers were terminated a day after the videos surfaced online.
In addition, CNN notes, the Gwinnett County solicitor-general has tossed out the case against Hollins, along with 88 other cases in which Bongiovanni and McDonald were the principal officers or key 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 release Friday.
The department also has launched criminal investigations into the behaviors of both officers.
“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.”
Read more at CNN.