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Alabama band director tased after football game says ‘no educator should ever have to experience that’


By Lauren Mascarenhas and Melissa Alonso, CNN

(CNN) — The Alabama band director who was shocked by a police stun gun and arrested after refusing to stop his band’s performance at a high school football game said the post-game songs had been arranged ahead of time and the whole experience has left him traumatized.

“I should have never been tased. It was excessive,” Johnny Mims, the Minor High School band director, said in a news conference Tuesday. “No educator should ever have to experience that.”

Mims said he is most concerned for the students who had to witness the incident, saying, “They are the most important thing in this situation.”

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s traumatizing. It’s difficult,” he said. “There’s no way to explain how I’m doing, because I know that my students are hurting.”

After the incident, Mims was taken to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and then to the Birmingham City Jail, where he was booked and later bonded out. Officers obtained arrest warrants for disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest, police said.

“Regardless of how this may have started, there’s nothing that happened that would have warranted my client being tased multiple times, even while on the ground like some total criminal, at that point in front of 145 students,” Mims’ attorney Juandalynn Givan said Tuesday on CNN This Morning. “Those kids were traumatized.”

Mims said he and the band director from PD Jackson-Olin High School, where the football game took place, had agreed to continue playing music after the game ended.

“The director from Jackson-Olin High School came over to set up a coordination of playing a few tunes after the game,” Mims said, adding that they settled on playing three songs.

“I was not trying to be defiant to the police department,” said Mims. “I was just trying to do my job, which was previously established before the end of the game.”

CNN has reached out to Jackson-Olin High School for comment.

Attorneys representing Mims are requesting all charges against him be dropped and for the officers involved to be placed on administrative leave.

The Birmingham Police Department released body camera video of the encounter that shows Mims being tased as people nearby scream.

“It’s extremely upsetting to me that our students, our children, had to witness that scene,” Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin said in a statement Tuesday. “Nothing is more important than their well-being.”

Birmingham police allowed the district to review the bodycam footage Monday night, Gonsoulin said.

“I am not prepared to discuss specifics on the content of the video. Our district leadership is still reviewing and analyzing the video and related circumstances, and will reserve further comment pending completion of that review,” he said.

Mims has been placed on administrative leave, which Gonsoulin said is standard protocol while the district reviews the situation.

“We cannot allow violence to be the way we handle situations,” Theron Stokes, lead attorney for the Alabama Education Association, the union that represents teachers in the state, said at a Wednesday news conference. The association has called for Mims’ return to work.

Director’s lawyer disputes police account of the incident

The incident began Thursday, when officers asked band directors from both schools to stop their performances after a football game at PD Jackson-Olin High School so people would leave the stadium, Birmingham Police spokesperson Truman Fitzgerald previously said in a statement.

The home team band stopped playing when asked, but Mims “instructed his band to continue performing,” the statement said.

“BPD officers attempted to take the band director into custody for Disorderly Conduct when a physical altercation ensued between the band director, Birmingham City Schools System personnel, and BPD officers,” the statement said.

“The arresting officer alleges the band director pushed him during the arrest,” the police statement said. “The arresting officer then subdued the band director with a Taser which ended the physical confrontation.”

Givan, an attorney for Mims, called the police description of the incident “an absolute lie.”

“My client, not at one time, attempted to assault, in any fashion, the Birmingham Police Department,” Givan said. “That an educator would be tased in front of students by law enforcement is unacceptable. It is excessive,” she added.

The Birmingham Police Department referred CNN’s request for comment to the Office of the City Attorney. CNN has reached out to that office for comment.

Mims said his band was split up when they were playing, with about 15 students on the track and 130 in the stands.

“I communicated to officers, ‘Hey, we’re on the last part of the song,’” Mims said. “There’s a coordination that must happen between those two entities of the band. It’s not one of those things you just cut the group off.”

Mims said the other high school’s entire band was in the stands, making it “much easier for that director to get total control of what’s going on with the group while they’re playing.”

And at some point, the lights in the stadium were turned off, he added.

“You can see that I’m trying to cue the group to cut off, but at that time, of course, because I’m a darker person, it’s very difficult for the students to see,” he said.

Givan said she was seeking information about who cut the lights off in the stadium and that they plan to pursue legal action against the police department.

“We are asking the City of Birmingham to drop all charges against Mr. Mims and to make him whole again – as whole as possible,” Givan said.

Mims said Wednesday he is working to regain regular use of his arm after police tased him. “I have a great doctor that I’ve been working with to try help me get regular use of my arm because I was tased in the shoulder as well as the lower torso area,” he said. “I use my shoulders for, of course, most of the things that I do.”

Stokes questioned whether responding officers operated in an “efficient and safe manner.”

“If it was their intent to protect the patrons and the students that were at the football game, why would they turn off the lights when they were still in there?” Stokes said.

It remains unclear who turned the field lights off. The school district PD Jackson-Olin High School belongs to, the Birmingham City Schools, said Wednesday that it’s still looking into the matter.

Police video shows confrontation

The bodycam video shows multiple officers telling Mims to end the performance while the band director repeats, “Get out of my face.”

“We’re fixing to go. This is our last song,” Mims then tells the officers.

When one officer threatens, “You will go to jail,” Mims responds with a thumbs-up and says, “That’s cool.”

The stadium’s field lights are then turned off and the band concludes its song. When Mims steps off the platform, a struggle ensues between him and the officers as they appear to try to handcuff him while 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.”

Mims is then heard replying he “did not swing on the officer” as the struggle continues.

Seconds later, an officer uses a Taser on Mims, bringing him to the ground as panicked screams are heard from the crowd around him.

The video has raised questions about use of police force.

“This would dare not have happened at a majority-White school in the state of Alabama,” Givan said. “But you would dare tase a Black man, in a Black school, in the city of Birmingham, which is a majority-Black city?”

The Birmingham Police Department’s “Internal Affairs Division investigates all incidents where an officer uses force during an arrest,” a police statement said.

PD Jackson-Olin High School is part of the Birmingham City Schools district, where fifth quarter performances are not allowed “as a safety precaution,” the district said in a statement to CNN Wednesday.

“Bands are instructed to promptly exit the stadium. This is even more important when games are played on school nights,” Birmingham City Schools added.

The district said the band director stepped down after a “BCS security team member tapped the director on his leg to get his attention.”

“We have further been advised that when Birmingham Police officers attempted to arrest the Minor band director, the BCS security team member attempted to calm the situation,” the district said, adding that school administrators, including the Jackson Olin principal, were present at the game.

Mims joined the Minor High School band in 2018 after teaching high school band in Florida for about a decade, according to the school’s website, and he has a master’s degree in music education from Florida State University.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Caroll Alvarado and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

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