Atlanta father Johnny Hollman killed by police on his way home from Bible study
Johnny Hollman, as seen in a photo provided to media by his family.

ATLANTA—On Aug. 10, 2023, Johnny Hollman said goodbye to his daughter and left his Bible study, just as he had done so many times before. Hollman, the chairman of the Deacon Board at The Lively Stones of God Ministries Church of Atlanta, died in police custody before he even got home. Now, his family, including his 26 grandchildren, are demanding the arrest of Atlanta police officer Kiran Kimbrough, who tased Hollman to death.

On the way home from his Bible study, Hollman called his daughter, Arnitra, to let her know that he had been in a minor car crash; nothing out of the ordinary for the car-dominated city of Atlanta. Arnitra, concerned, asked her father where he was and asked if he would like her to come. Hollman reassured her he was alright and that the police were on their way to help.

Hollman waited over an hour for police to arrive. According to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) report, upon arriving, Officer Kimbrough determined that Hollman was responsible for the crash and attempted to take him into custody. The report stated that Hollman became agitated and uncooperative with Kimbrough, and that Kimbrough had no choice but to use force against the deacon.

However, before this, Hollman felt something was wrong and out of the ordinary. He called Arnitra again, this time simply keeping the phone on speaker in the car with him so she could hear his interaction with police. She ended up listening in on what would his final moments alive.

According to Arnitra, despite calling the police himself for help, Hollman sounded more in distress and panicked after they arrived than he had been before he called them. In a press conference on Aug. 18, Arnitra fought back tears as she recalled the last phone call she had with her father.

Through the phone, Arnitra could hear 23-year-old Kimbrough speaking to her father in a disrespectful manner that prompted her to record the phone call. In the call, Hollman asks Kimbrough, “You gonna do an old man like this?”

Hearing her father beg for help over the phone, Arnitra became fearful. At the press conference, she described her father’s last moments during the call. She told reporters and activists, “I heard my daddy in distress. I heard my daddy tell me he couldn’t breathe. I heard my daddy beg for help.”

The final straw had been drawn for the deacon’s daughter and shortly after midnight, she and her brother, Johnny Hollman, Jr., headed to the intersection of Cunningham Place and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, the site of the crash. By the time she arrived, it was too late.

Hollman was on the ground surrounded by police as EMTs performed CPR on Hollman. He would be taken to Grady Hospital early on Aug. 11, where he was pronounced dead. Only a few hours after a minor traffic incident, the police Hollman called for help ended up being the ones to take his life.

At the press conference on Aug. 18, the family, joined by lawyers and activists, announced that they would be holding a protest and rally at Atlanta Police to raise awareness of Hollman’s killing and to demand the arrest of Kimbrough.

Later that week, on Aug. 24, Atlantans gathered outside the police department, forming a circle around the grieving Hollman family. During what was a particularly hot August afternoon, rally attendees waved fans and downed water as they listened to Arnitra, Johnny, and other family members describe the pain of losing the head of their family.

Family members and community activists raised the demand to arrest Kimbrough, while speaking up about another related local issue, the movement to Stop Cop City.

Cop City refers to a plan by the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) to bulldoze over 300 acres of the South River Forest in order to construct a militarized police facility for departments and agencies around the world to use for training.

Community activist Kamau Franklin of Community Movement Builders did not mince words when connecting Stop Cop City to Hollman’s death. According to Franklin, the proposed training center “has nothing to do with stopping brutality,” but rather the facility will “continue the over-policing and murdering” of Atlanta community members.

Franklin emphasized that if APF goes ahead with the building of Cop City, “there’s gonna be more Johnny Hollmans,” and said that’s why he showed up for the family as they fight for justice.

On Sept. 5, the City of Atlanta invited the Hollman family to City Hall so that they could view Kimbrough’s body camera footage. After the meeting, they exited City Hall visibly distraught, many crying or covering their faces as they stood behind Mawuli Davis, their attorney. Davis addressed reporters and cameras as he took to the podium to describe the moments shown in the video.

A rally demanding police accountability for the murder of Johnny Hollman. | Erica Meade / People’s World

According to Davis, the footage told a different story than the one police had initially told the Hollman family. The police department had described Johnny Hollman as “agitated and uncooperative.” Members of Hollman’s church and neighborhood knew him as a caring father figure, someone whom many Atlantans simply referred to as “dad,” even if he wasn’t their real father. According to Davis, the video did not challenge this notion at all.

After emerging from City Hall, Davis explained that after Kimbrough assigned fault to Hollman for the fender-bender, he issued a ticket to the church deacon. Hollman, in disagreement, attempted to strike up a conversation and asked Kimbrough to call a sergeant, since he disagreed with the initial assessment.

It was immediately after Hollman asked for a second opinion that Kimbrough told Hollman he would be arresting him for not signing the ticket. Davis continued, stating Hollman realized it was better to sign the ticket than go to jail, but as he motioned to sign the ticket, it was too late. Kimbrough grabbed Hollman and forced him to the ground.

The scene does not become any better, as shortly after taking Hollman to the ground, Kimbrough begins to tase him. According to Davis, in the video, Hollman is “on the ground and [Kimbrough] is tasing him and he’s saying ‘I can’t breath, I cant breath.’”

Prior to the initial Aug. 24 rally, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens ordered a full investigation into the details surrounding Hollman’s death, as well as a review of APD’s ticket-writing policy. In response to the mayor’s order, police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee announced that APD would change its policy so that if a driver refuses to sign a ticket, officers can write in “refused to sign” rather than arresting them.

Davis made clear at the press conference that followed the viewing of body cam footage that the family is reiterating their demand for the arrest of Kimbrough. The family’s attorney has worked for several years in the city of Atlanta and made sure to state during the press conference that Hollman’s killing was “as senseless of a death that [he has] ever seen in the city of Atlanta.”

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Erica Meade
Erica Meade

Erica Meade is an organizer with the Angelo Herndon Club in Atlanta, Georgia. She got her start in political organizing through mutual aid in D.C., her hometown, before becoming involved with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.