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Gwinnett PD Fires Two Officers Guilty of Using Excessive Force On Black Motorist; DA Says Charges Likely

Former Gwinnett County Police Officers Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni (left) and Master Police Officer Robert McDonald (right) were fired after video showed them punching and kicking a stopped motorist. Image courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Two Gwinnett County police officers found themselves out of a job Thursday, April 13, less than 24 hours after video surfaced of them kicking and punching a Black motorist in handcuffs.

The disturbing turn of events started a little after 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, when Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni stopped driver Demetrius Bryan Hollins near Sugarloaf Parkway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In his report, Bongiovanni wrote that Hollins’ car didn’t have a license plate and that the driver had switched lanes multiple times without signaling.

The officer said Hollins didn’t initially pull over, but his car eventually stalled out. He noted that the young man was acting strangely, smelled of weed and started yelling, “I need my mom.” That’s when the officer ordered Hollins out of the car, and a brief struggle reportedly ensued.

“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,” Biogiovanni wrote in the incident report, adding that he had used a Taser on Hollins to get him on the ground and in handcuffs.

The sergeant was soon joined by Master Police Officer Robert McDonald at the scene.

Soon after the traffic stop occurred, cell phone footage showing McDonald running up and kicking Hollins in the head as he lay handcuffed was posted to Facebook, sparking outrage.

The department took swift action, firing the master police officer the very next day.

“The revelations uncovered in this entire investigation are shocking,” Gwinnett police said in a statement released late Thursday.

Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers echoed the department’s sentiments at a press conference Thursday.

“The suspect was lying down, he was clearly handcuffed, he was clearly not resisting,” Ayers said. “He wasn’t a threat to anyone. Any further application of use of force was unnecessary and excessive.”

At the same press conference, Ayers applauded Bongiovanni for following protocol and reporting the stomping incident with McDonald. Just hours later, however, a second video emerged showing the sergeant punching Rollins in the face, even though he had both his hands up.

Bongoivanni didn’t mention punching Hollins in his incident report or in a follow-up interview, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The video was contrary to what was reported by Michael Bongiovanni,” the department said in a statement. “We’re 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.”

Ayers told reporters late Thursday that “providing false or misleading information” would not be tolerated by the department.

No criminal charges have been announced yet, but Gwinnett PD said it’s moving forward with a thorough investigation of the incident.

“We have also launched a criminal investigation that will ultimately be sent to the District Attorney’s Office,” the department said. “What happened yesterday was clearly outside of state law and department policy. We do not tolerate actions that are not consistent with our core values or state law.”

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told the AJC that charges are likely, particularly against McDonald.

Hollins left the Gwinnett County Jail Thursday with a bloodied face, telling local station WSB-TV, “All I can say is, I wish this had never happened to me.”

There’s no word on if he plans to press charges against the officers.

McDonald was a three-year veteran of the force, while Bongiovanni had been with Gwinnett PD since 1998.

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