Former Gwinnett officers indicted for traffic stop beating

Former Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni, left, and former officer Robert McDonald

A man who was beaten in the middle of Sugarloaf Parkway by two Gwinnett County police officers in 2017 has filed a federal lawsuit against the officers, as well as the county and former police Chief Butch Ayers over the incident.

Demetrius Hollins filed the lawsuit in the Northern District Court of Georgia on Sept. 10, and is seek to collect damages for injuries he sustained in the attack as well as attorneys fees.

“The traumatic and unjustifiable abuse of being punched in the face, tased, and kicked in the face by sworn police officers for no good reason, in the middle of a busy public roadway and intersection in broad daylight, has caused significant mental and emotional shock, humiliation, distress and trauma, and serious and ongoing psychological and emotional injuries which Plaintiff still experiences today,” Hollins attorney, Justin Miller, wrote in the lawsuit.

The officers at the center of the lawsuit, former Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and former Officer Robert McDonald, were fired in April 2017 after videos of them assaulting Hollins in the roadway.

The videos show Hollins being stomped on and struck by the officers during a traffic stop at the intersection of Sugarloaf Parkway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in Lawrenceville. The lawsuit filed earlier this month says Hollins was kicked by McDonald so hard at one point during the encounter that his head bounced off the ground.

McDonald was found guilty of aggravated assault, battery and felony violation of oath by public office for his role in the incident at a trial in February 2020. Bongiovanni pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and battery in 2019.

Bongiovanni’s plea deal allowed him to spend six months in Gwinnett’s work-release program, five months home confinement and the rest of his 10-year sentence on probation instead of going to jail if he testified against McDonald.

The lawsuit argues that Gwinnett County leaders and former Police Chief Butch Ayers are liable for what happened to Hollins because they did not do enough to address excessive use of force issues prior to the April 2017 incident. The suit says there had been previous use of force incidents involving Bongiovanni and McDonald.

“GCPD’s widespread and persistent pattern and practice of turning a blind eye and ignoring the need to investigate, train, supervise, and/or discipline GCPD officers regarding their constitutional duty to intervene amounts to a municipal policy of deliberate indifference which was the moving force behind and caused Plaintiff injuries,” Miller wrote in the lawsuit.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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