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Attorney for Alabama band director arrested after football game says tasing was unacceptable and left students traumatized


By Lauren Mascarenhas and Melissa Alonso, CNN

(CNN) — The Alabama band director who was arrested after refusing to stop his band’s performance at a high school football game is grappling with the aftermath of being tased by police, which his attorney says was unacceptable and left students traumatized.

“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,” Johnny Mims’ attorney, Juandalynn Givan said. “Those kids were traumatized.”

Mims, the band director at Minor High School, told “CNN This Morning” he is working to regain regular use of his arm after police tased him and is concerned about his students who witnessed the incident.

“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,” Mims said Wednesday. “I use my shoulders for, of course, most of the things that I do.”

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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

PD Jackson-Olin High School is part of the Birmingham City Schools district, where fifth quarter performances are not allowed, the district told CNN affiliate WVTM in a statement.

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 contributed to this report.

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