Criminal Charges Filed Against Gwinnett Co. Officers Who Kicked, Punched Black Motorist
Two former Gwinnett County officers who were videotaped kicking and punching a man during a traffic stop earlier this month have been charged.
Ex-officer Robert McDonald and Sgt. Mike Bongiovanni are charged with one misdemeanor charge of battery and one count each of violation of oath, which is a felony, WSB-TV Atlanta reported. A $15,000 bond has been set for each of the former officers.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where both officers appeared to act without justification,” District Attorney Danny Porter said. “We believe it’s important and the management of the police department believes it’s important that they move forward with the arrest warrant.”
McDonald and Bongiovanni have until the end of the workday Thursday, April 27, to turn themselves in to police.
Two weeks ago, public outrage ensued after video surfaced of McDonald running up and kicking Black motorist Demetrius Hollins in the head as he lay handcuffed on the ground. A second video emerged hours later showing Bongiovanni as he sucker-punched Hollins even though the college student had his hands in the air. The department took swift action, firing both officers the very next day.
“The police department and its employees will continue to serve the citizens while maintaining our core values and highest level of professionalism,” Gwinnett Police Chief Butch Ayers said in a statement.
The charges come just 10 days after the Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office dismissed 89 criminal cases in which McDonald and Bongiovanni were the principal officers or necessary witnesses. A previous case against Hollins was among those thrown out.
“The actions of these officers completely undermine their credibility and they cannot be relied upon as witnesses in any pending prosecution,” Solicitor-General Rosanna Szabo said in a press release. “When police officers betray the public’s trust and confidence, justice demands that all those cases that depend on their credibility be dismissed without delay.”
Hollins said his violent encounter with the former officers still haunts him.
“I’ve just been having nightmares and in my head, it’s just like, ‘What could I have done that would have not let this happen to me?'” he said.
The victim’s attorney expressed satisfaction with the charges but said he would like to see possibly greater charges brought against McDonald and Bongiovanni.
“There are multiple violations of my client’s civil rights, more serious than misdemeanor charges and we hope that the investigation is ongoing and other charges will follow,” attorney Justin D. Miller told the news station.
Porter said more severe charges, including felonies, are being considered and could come in a matter of days.
“Once the reports are over in my office, we will have the opportunity to review some more of the potential charges,” he said.