ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department said the death of a metro Atlanta pastor in police custody has caused a change in APD policy for motorists who refuse to sign a citation.
But a report obtained by Channel 2 Action News adds new and potentially critical information to the picture of what happened.
The death of Johnny Hollman has been the focus of plenty of news reporting in recent weeks, but now, a medical examiner’s report obtained by Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne adds important new information.
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The family’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that bodycam video shows Hollman did not refuse to sign the ticket but he said three times that he would sign it.
Davis says the video indicates an officer was impatient with how long it took Hollman to say he would sign it.
Hollman, a grandfather and church deacon, died after he was Tased and handcuffed by Atlanta police after a minor traffic accident. According to police, he refused to sign a traffic citation during the stop in August and then became combative. He lost consciousness at some point during the stop and died later at the hospital.
The autopsy shows a police Taser did play a role in Hollman’s death, but there were other significant factors involved.
Fulton County’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Sullivan said the autopsy showed Hollman died after his heart rhythm was disrupted as a result of being stunned by the Taser. But Hollman also had high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, a type of heart disease. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and diabetes were also contributing factors.
The report does list the manner of death as a homicide, which Sullivan says, in terms of the medical examiner parlance, just means he died as a result of the actions of another person, not necessarily that there was a crime involved. That would have to be determined by the legal system.
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Sullivan said the autopsy also determined Hollman’s left main coronary artery was 90% blocked and two other coronary arteries were 75% blocked. These arteries feed blood to the heart.
According to the report, which was conducted by examiner Melissa Sims-Stanley:
“It is my opinion that Johnny Hollman died due to cardiac dysrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) due to use of a conducted energy device in association with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Review of the body cam video and discussion with GBI Special Agent Keshia Morris confirms that a conducted energy device is used as a stun gun during a physical confrontation with law enforcement. Based on my review and interpretation of the video, Mr. Hollman is unresponsive from the time that the energy device is deployed.”
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A statement from Atlanta police said that after the accident, police determined Hollman was the at-falt driver.
According to police:
“The officer attempted to issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver. However, the driver became agitated and uncooperative. The officer attempted to take the driver into custody, but he resisted, and a struggle ensued. After several minutes of struggling with the driver, the officer utilized his taser and, with the help of a witness, placed him into handcuffs. Once the driver was in handcuffs, the officer realized he was unresponsive and requested EMS to the scene.”
Family attorney Mawuli Davis said the family believes based on the report that the “physical attack,” as Davis put it, by a 23-year-old officer in combination with a 62-year-old’s pre-existing ailments caused Hollman’s death.
Davis said the injuries to his body described in the report underscore the need for the bodycam video to be released immediately.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Nelly Miles said the GBI’s independent investigation, requested by Atlanta police into Hollman’s death is active and ongoing.
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