By Carol Robinson
The attorney for an Alabama high school band director who was tased and arrested for not stopping his band from playing says newly released body cam footage did not change her mind that her client was wronged by Birmingham police.
Johnny Mims, the band director at Minor High School, is charged is charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest. He is on administrative leave pending ongoing investigations.
“All day my phone has been ringing from every major news network in this country,’’ said State Rep. Juandalynn Givan. “The issue for them is not how it started. The issue for them is how it ended up.”
“Why did the police go to the extreme to tase my client?” she said. “It wasn’t warranted. That’s the issue.”
Police contend Mims didn’t comply with their order for his band to stop playing so they could clear the stadium following the end of the Sept. 14 game between Minor High and Jackson-Olin High Schools, which was played in Birmingham.
The incident was captured on multiple videos and has drawn a strong reaction on both sides of the issue.
Birmingham police Tuesday night released a seven-minute video which begins 18 minutes after the game had ended.
In some HBCU’s and predominantly Black high schools, once the football game ends, bands stay on to play for families and supporters in what is commonly called the “The 5th Quarter.”
Givan, who on Monday called for the suspensions of the officers involved, said the officers were involved in home rule. “They had no business addressing my client, instructing my client in any kind of manner,’’ she said.
“As you listen to the (police) video, you hear the officer say, ‘I’m going to call the superintendent and you’re going to have to pay my overtime,’’ Givan said.
“What that officer should have been doing is never spoken to my client and already made a call to the superintendent to reach out to the principal or whoever the administrator on duty or in charge was to address the issues going on. That’s what should have happened.”
Asked how Mims is coping, Givan said, “Yesterday was not a good day for him.”
“He’s beginning to talk about the situation as part of a therapeutic effort to get past it. He was traumatized,’’ she said. “He just left a doctor’s appointment a little while ago because he had to get his injures checked out. He was basically electrocuted, shocked.”
“When you tase someone, people don’t understand the gravity,’’ Givan said. “People have died from being tased.”
Givan is questioning how many taser hits Mims sustained.
“How many cycles did that Taser go through? He went to the ground. He was already on the ground,’’ she said. “Why did law enforcement have to tase him then? Nobody’s talking about that. That’s how you get to was there abuse.”
“He was already defenseless,’’ she said. “That’s like kicking a man while he’s on his knees.”
The other thing she said people should be questioning is who authorized that the stadium lights be turned off, and why.
“That in itself set a clear and present danger right there,’’ she said.
Mims was also the driver of the band bus. It wasn’t immediately clear who drove home the students.
“They were left alone,’’ she said. “I’ve had parents to call me and say their children literally did not go to bed that night. Their kids were traumatized.”
There has been discussion about what kind of example Mims set for the students with his interaction with police.
“They need to see the entire body cam. They need to see how the police disrespected him,’’ Givan said.
“They also need to understand what the band director was doing at the time. He was not necessarily saying he wasn’t going to obey them. He was telling them that he was wrapping up that song.”
“My client was simply trying to tell them to give him a minute and that was the last song,’’ she said. “He could have put his hands down right then and the band was not going to stop playing.”
“There’s a process to it,’’ she said. “He was thrown off because they shouldn’t have been approaching him.”
Givan also addressed information in an AL.com story that reported Mims in 2012 resigned from New Smyrna Beach High School after a probe “concluded Mims had exhibited anger control issues in front of students by hitting a Plexiglas podium so hard it broke and slamming a chair down on the floor,” the News-Journal reported.
That probe came after a band parent accused him of angry outbursts and verbal abuse. Several band members and parents rallied in support of Mims, the report stated.
“That has nothing to do with the incident that occurred on Sept. 14, 2023, in Birmingham,’’ she said. “It’s just ruse to throw off the subject matter of what the police did.”
“In 2012, he was appointed to a school that was majority white at the time. There was a parent there who had a problem with him, as educators do all the time,’’ Givan said. “He was the first Black band director at this majority-white school.”
“He left after a year, however he was not penalized in any manner,’’ she said. “I’ve been representing educators for over 10 years and those situations arise.”
The Alabama Education Association and Givan will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday to further address the incident.
“It’s not acceptable what happened with my client,’’ she said. “No one’s life was in jeopardy.”