Alabama school band director speaks out after being tased by police: ‘All I remember is students screaming’

Johnny Mims’ lawyer called the incident an ‘alarming abuse of power’ by police

Martha McHardy
Thursday 21 September 2023 13:17 BST
Alabama school band director speaks out after being tased by police

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Louise Thomas

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An Alabama school band director who was tasered by police officers after he refused to stop his band’s performance has now spoken out about the incident.

Minor High School band director Johnny Mims said he was tased by police three times following a football game between Minor and PD Jackson-Olin High Schools in Birmingham, Alabama, on 14 September.

Mr Mims told NBC News NOW that he was just doing his job “as an educator, instructing the band, allowing the band to play” at the end of the game – and trying to celebrate his school’s win.

Now, he just remembers the sound of his students screaming, he said.

Mr Mims said that he and the director for Jackson-Olin High School had agreed both bands would play while crowds left the stadium after the football game – something he said the bands often do.

But police officers approached the bands after the game as they were clearing out the stadium and asked them to stop playing “so students and attendees would leave the stadium,” the Birmingham Police Department said in a statement.

While the home team’s band complied with the request, Mr Mims did not and “instructed his band to continue performing,” police said.

A physical altercation is said to have ensued, with officers tasering and then arresting Mr Mims.

“Before I knew it, I did see the officer tase me. I went down and after that, I was tased an additional two more times by the same officer and a different officer,” Mr Mims said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“I can’t even remember after that point because I was so stunned and so baffled. All I remember is hearing all of my students screaming and all of the parents crying.”

He continued: “The things that happened in that game should have never happened. The students should have never seen me tased.”

Bodycam footage released by police – which they said began 18 minutes after the game ended – shows an officer telling Mr Mims “y’all gotta go and come down.”

“Get out of my face. Get out of my face. Get out my face,” Mr Mims then repeats with his hands in the air.

“We’re fixing to go. This is our last song,” Mr Mims adds.

The high school band director is seen before being tasered
The high school band director is seen before being tasered (Birmingham Police Department)

An officer is then heard telling Mr Mims “you will go to jail,” to which he responds with a thumbs up. “That’s cool,” he says.

The band then stops playing its song and Mr Mims steps off the stage before a struggle ensues between him and the officers as they appear to try to handcuff him and he yells “get off of me”.

“He hit the officer. He gotta go to jail,” one officer is heard saying. “He swing on the officer.”

Mr Mims is then heard saying he “did not swing on the officer” seconds before he is tasered by police and brought to the ground.

In a statement, police said Mr Mims allegedly pushed an officer during his arrest.

“The arresting officer then subdued the band director with a taser which ended the physical confrontation,” the statement continued.

Mr Mims was treated at the scene and taken to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.

Following his release from hospital, he was arrested for disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest.

Mr Mims’ attorney Juandalynn Givan, a state representative, slammed the officers’ actions. “This incident is an alarming abuse of power and a clear violation of our client’s civil rights,” she said.

In the press conference, she said: “We again stand firmly by our belief that this was excessive force, unnecessary and unwarranted.

“There were multiple Birmingham police officers there and the size of my client, he should have been able to be subdued in some kind of manner but it never should have escalated. It’s their role to de-escalate a situation.”

Ms Givan also denied that Mr Mims pushed an officer. She said the claim is “just another attempt by law enforcement, as they have done across the country, to validate their bad acts”.

The Birmingham Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division has launched an investigation into the incident. Jefferson County Schools also is investigating and said Mr Mims is currently on administrative leave – a standard procedure while the probe plays out.

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