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Georgia Black Man Gets $400K Settlement Nearly Five Years After He Was Punched, Kicked In Face While Handcuffed After Trying to Record His Traffic Stop; Still Suffering from PTSD

Attorneys for a Black man brutally beaten by two Atlanta-area police officers nearly five years ago have settled with Gwinnett County

“We are pleased that Gwinnett County has opted to resolve the lawsuit brought by Demetrius Hollins,” Justin Miller and Dianna Lee said in an email statement sent out on Tuesday, Jan. 11, regarding the $400,000 reward they obtained for their client, WJCL reported. Authorities reportedly decided on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Demetrius Hollins was punched and kicked in the face by Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and Master Police Officer Robert McDonald during a traffic stop on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. 11Alive News Screenshot.

“This settlement, which represents the final chapter in the quest for justice for Mr. Hollins, is one of the largest in Gwinnett County history for an incident of this nature. We will continue to hold officers and their departments accountable when they violate their oath to protect and serve their constituents.”

Hollins filed that federal lawsuit in September 2021, claiming that during a traffic stop on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, former police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and former Master Police Officer Robert McDonald unjustly pulled him over and, in retaliation for recording the encounter, used excessive force by punching and kicking him in the face as he lay on the ground, handcuffed. 

During a press conference that same month, Hollins said he still has “some kind of PTSD from this situation.”

Hollins was 22 when he was stopped in Lawrenceville, just outside Atlanta. Video footage captured by witnesses showed Bongiovanni punching the young man, even as he stood with his hands visible and in the air just after exiting his car. A second witness video showed McDonald running and kicking Hollins in the head. 

“I don’t want anyone else to experience the pain and horror I did,” Hollins said in a statement after the filing. “My hope is that this lawsuit serves as a reminder that members of law enforcement need to treat people with respect. I shouldn’t be receiving justice simply because of a video.”

The then college student suffered severe burn marks to the back of his neck, a busted lip, severe swelling and bruising to most of his face, which caused permanent scarring to his chin, nose and lower lip.

Both men were terminated the next day from the Gwinnett County Police Department. Bongiovanni ultimately pleaded no contest to battery and aggravated assault charges in 2019, and was ordered to serve six months in a work-release program, followed by a 10-year probation sentence in exchange for testifying against McDonald, who also received 10 years of probation.

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