Two former Georgia police officers were indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts Wednesday, including battery and aggravated assault, WXIA and others reported.
The allegations came after cell phone video surfaced of the former Gwinnett County officers, Michael Bongiovanni and Robert McDonald, beating a black man who appeared to be compliant at a traffic stop on April 12, 2017.
One video shows Bongiovanni striking 21-year-old Demetrius Hollins getting out of a red sedan with his hands raised.
There’s about a two-second pause, then Bongiovanni strikes the man in the head with his first or forearm, whipping him toward the door as the man struggles to keep his hands up.
Another video shows McDonald arriving at the scene where Hollins is already on the ground and handcuffed, running over to Bongiovanni and stomping on the prone man’s head.
The two then lift the man up and take him out of the street.
(Warning: There is one expletive in the video.)
The incident began after a routine traffic stop when Bongiovanni said Hollins did not follow directions and resisted when he was told to get out of the car, CNN reported.
In an official report, Bongiovanni said he tased Hollins and handcuffed him after he resisted getting out of the car when McDonald arrived and stomped Hollins in the head, reported the Gwinnett Daily Post.
But then the video showing Bongiovanni strike the man appeared online, casting doubt on whether the report was fully accurate.
Both men were fired after a public outcry.
“We’ve put a lot of money into recruiting, training and equipping them, and there is literally no excuse for behavior like this,” Police Chief Butch Ayers told CNN. “This is not what we teach in the academy. This is not what we expect from our officers, and we aren’t going to put up with it.”
The case was forwarded to the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office, which decided to seek felony charges.
“We are relieved to hear that the District Attorney’s Office is taking the necessary steps to address the criminal aspect of the behavior exhibited by these officers,” Hollins’ lawyer wrote in a statement to WSB-TV. “These officers’ actions have had a debilitating effect on our client and we are grateful to those members of the Gwinnett County Community, who chose not to look the other way, but instead chose to document this incident.”
Both officers were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday. Bongiovanni faces eight charges and McDonald faces three, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“The gates of the Colosseum are open wide,” Bongiovanni’s lawyer Mike Puglise told the AJC, “and the crucifixion begins against these police officers.”
Meanwhile, McDonald’s attorney said he would seek a separate trial, as McDonald’s involvement was “very brief” and “separate and distinct from any acts of Sgt. Bongiovanni,” he told the paper.
Bongiovanni’s lawyer said the officer did not strike the man inappropriately but used a method to turn the suspect around to handcuff him, and that he did not lie on his report, according to WXIA.
McDonald’s lawyer, Walt Britt, argues that McDonald’s actions were reasonable given the emergency nature of his job and the situation, reported the Gwinnett Daily Post.