VIDEO: Gwinnett Officer Fired After Kicking Handcuffed Man | WABE 90.1 FM

VIDEO: Gwinnett Officer Fired After Kicking Handcuffed Man

Apr 13, 2017

The Gwinnett County Police Department has fired an officer who was captured in a widely-shared video of kicking a man in the head during a traffic stop on Wednesday in Lawrenceville.  

The officer, Robert McDonald, was hired by the department in 2013, and graduated from the police academy in 2014, officials said. 

“Robert McDonald stepped outside of the guiding principles of our agency, and as a result of his actions he was terminated less than 24 hours after the incident occurred,” Gwinnett County Police spokesperson Corporal Deon Washington said in a statement. “The actions by this former officer do not represent the officers of this department who dedicate their lives to serving the community on a daily basis.”

At a press conference, Gwinnett County Police Chief A.A. "Butch" Ayers said the video disturbed him.

“What happened yesterday at the hands of one of my former officers was embarrassing, not only to the Gwinnett County Police Department but to all law enforcement,” he said. “We recognize that the trust between the community and law enforcement is fragile and situations like what occurred yesterday only make this worse.”

Ayers said the department has launched a criminal investigation, of which the results will be sent to the county District Attorney, but said he believed no external investigation was necessary.

“The history of this department is that we investigate our own people. We have held our own people accountable,” he said.

According to official report of what happened, released by Gwinnett Police, another officer, M. Bongiovanni, said he watched a car fail to use a turn signal. The car was missing a rear license plate and had a broken brake light. The officer said he smelled marijuana and recognized Hollins from an earlier arrest in August of 2016 for marijuana possession and a loaded gun in his car.

Bongiovanni said Hollins started yelling “I need to call my mom!” and “You have to let me go.” He called for back up and ordered Hollins out of the car. According to the report, Hollins grabbed his phone and screamed “Help me” into it. The officer said he reached in the car to grab Hollins, who resisted as Bongiovanni tried to handcuff him. The officer says he used a stun gun on Hollins twice before handcuffing him. That’s when the report said McDonald arrived.

The report said Hollins, who had a bloody lip and nose, kept yelling “I was only going to visit my mom!” Police say they found what they believe was marijuana in the car, as well as a bottle of urine wrapped in tea bags, which the report says officers believe was meant for someone to pass a drug test.

According to police documents, McDonald has reported having had to use force in three other cases. Each incident was determined not to require further action by the department. In 2016, the department awarded McDonald for three years of good conduct with no disciplinary actions.

Video of the incident was captured by a witness sitting in traffic. Ayers said the department hopes to have officers equipped with body cameras by the end of this year. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.