A man who was beaten and kicked by county police during a traffic stop in the middle of Sugarloaf Parkway in 2017 has reached a $400,000 settlement with Gwinnett County officials.
Attorneys for Demetrius Hollins announced the settlement this week. Hollins’ encounter with former Gwinnett County Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and Officer Robert McDonald made international headlines in April 2017 after two videos of the officers showed them punching and kicking him in the head.
The settlement was approved by county commissioners this month. Hollins’ attorneys, Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, said the settlement is one of the largest for a non-lethal, non-gun related police use of force incident in Gwinnett history.
“We are pleased that Gwinnett County has opted to resolve the lawsuit brought by Demetrius Hollins,” the attorneys said. “This settlement, which represents the final chapter in the quest for justice for Mr. Hollins, will prevent these officers from wearing the badge in the future. We will continue to hold officers and their departments accountable when they violate their oath to protect and serve their constituents. These incidents just don’t hurt the community, they dishonor the good officers who are out there risking their lives daily.”
The incident between Hollins, Bongiovanni and McDonald came at a time when racial relations in Gwinnett were already stressed because of Facebook posts that former county Commissioner Tommy Hunter made, including one in January of 2017 where he called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig,” that led to months of protests at county commission meetings.
Video of the incident show Bongiovanni dragging Hollins, who had his hands in the air, out of his car and punching him in the head before handcuffing him. Bongiovanni also used a TASER on Hollins. McDonald then arrived after Hollins was in handcuffs and kicked him in the head.
Hollins had filed a lawsuit against the county, the officers and former Gwinnett Police Chief A.A. “Butch” Ayers in September. Both Bongiovanni and McDonald were fired after the videos emerged. Bongiovanni took a plea deal, agreeing to plea no contest to aggravated assault and battery charges while McDonald was convicted by a jury in February 2020 on aggravated assault, battery and violating an oath of office charges.
Bongiovanni testified against McDonald at his trial and, in exchange, received a 10-year sentence that includes six months in Gwinnett’s work-release program, five months home confinement and the remainder on probation.
McDonald was sentenced in November 2020 to 10 years probation with the first 11 months spent on house arrest, and was barred from holding a law enforcement job or Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training certification.
A video that appears to show a Gwinnett County police officer punching a man in the face was posted online Thursday just hours after the Department comdemned another video showing an officer kicking a handcuffed man in the head.