Police fire two officers accused of punching, kicking man
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Two Gwinnett County police officers have been fired after two videos surfaced on the internet of one officer striking the face of a suspect with hands up, and the other officer kicking the suspect while he was handcuffed.
Robert McDonald and Michael Bongiovanni were terminated from the Gwinnett County Police Department, and separate criminal investigations have been launched, according to police.
The Gwinnett County Solicitor's Office announced in a release Friday afternoon that 89 cases involving McDonald and Bongiovani were dismissed. The release states, "The actions of these officers completely undermine their credibility and they cannot be relied upon as witnesses in any pending prosecution."
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said his investigators are reviewing their criminal cases as well.
"It jeopardizes the cases if we don't," said Porter.
Once Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers turns the Hollins case over to the district attorney's office, Porter's investigators will determine if there's evidence to charge the former officers with battery, violation of oath of office, or assault by color of the law, charges the DA said are hard to reconcile given Bongiovanni's track record.
"This is a man who pulled a woman out of a burning car. He saved other officers lives during SWAT situations. Up until this incident, he was the type of guy you can really count on so it is hard to make all of this lineup, but we have a responsibility to look at this case very thoroughly," said Porter, who believes the case could go to a grand jury by the end of the month.
WATCH: Police chief discusses firings
The incident happened around 4 p.m. at the busy intersection of Sugarloaf Parkway at Lawrenceville Suwanee Road.
The first officer fired, McDonald, was seen in the first video responding as backup to help a supervisor during a traffic stop. A witness stuck in traffic captured video of McDonald kicking suspect Demetrius Bryan Hollins in the head.
Bongiovanni was fired Thursday evening after a second video surfaced, according to police. The video was filmed by a witness and shows the suspect getting out of the car with both hands up. As he stands with his hands up, Michael Bongiovanni strikes the man in the face, according to police.
The videos were posted on YouTube Wednesday, and have since been shared widely on social media.
"The cell phone video is very disturbing and it speaks for itself," Gwinnett County police said in the first news release Thursday morning.
In the second news release, the Gwinnett County police said, "We are fortunate that this second video was found and we were able to move swiftly to terminate a supervisor who lied and stepped outside of his training and state law. Michael Bongiovanni was hired September 1998 and graduated the police academy February 1999.
Police say the videos are crucial to the investigation and confirmed that the force used was both unnecessary and excessive.
In the first video, you can see Hollins on the ground, handcuffed as McDonald moves in. Moments later, McDonald was recorded kicking the suspect in the head.
Thursday morning, police released Hollins' mugshot, where he has blood on his face.
Hollins is facing a number of charges. Several of those include driving with a suspended or revoked license, failure to signal, obstruction law enforcement officer and less than an ounce of marijuana.
Following the incident, the officer was placed on administrative leave and sent home. He was then terminated less than 24 hours after the incident happened.
Gwinnett County police said a criminal investigation has been launched, which will ultimately be sent to the District Attorney's Office.
Police released the following statement in a news release Thursday:
"What happened yesterday was clearly outside of state law and department policy. We do not tolerate actions that are not consistent with our core values or state law."
McDonald was hired in August 2013 and graduated from the police academy in March 2014.
Police said they will likely release more details by close of business Wednesday.
The Georgia NAACP released a statement Thursday afternoon condemning the actions of the officer in the video.
"I am disgusted by the intolerable conduct of the Gwinnett County police officer who kicked Demetrius Bryan Holins, 21, in the head as he was lying on the ground during a traffic stop. Unfortunately, this conduct is par for the course in too many agencies charged with the duty of serving and protecting the public" said Francys Johnson, Statesboro Attorney and Georgia NAACP President.