Johnny Mims, Minor High School’s band director since 2018, was arrested Thursday night by Birmingham police after officers ordered the band to leave mid-song following a game at Jackson-Olin High School.
The incident has divided those who say police should have handled the situation in a different manner and those who say Mims should have complied with officers’ request to leave.
Here’s what we know today:
Who is Johnny Mims?
Mims took over as Minor’s band director after serving as director of orchestra and bands at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach and director of bands at New Smyrna Beach High School in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, according to information found on the school website.
A native of Homestead, Florida, Mims is a graduate of Florida State University with a Master in Music Education. He also graduated from Bethune Cookman University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and Bachelor of Science in Educational Studies.
Growing up in an inner-city neighborhood, Mims told the Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2011 that music gave him something to do and helped him “stay out of trouble.” His family lost their home to Hurricane Andrew when he was 9, the article stated.
“To me, music is one of the most important elements in life,” Mims said. “No matter what it is, music is somehow involved in everything we do on a day-to-day basis. I want to give students the opportunity I had to be able to go to college and build the craft.”
In 2012, Mims 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,’’ his attorney, state Rep. Juandalynn Givan, said Tuesday.
“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.”
What is a 5th quarter?
Video released by police states the interaction between Mims and the officers took place 18 minutes after the end of the game.
In some HBCU’s and predominantly Black high schools, once the football game ends, bands stay on to play for families and supporters.
“Johnny Mims, a respected member of the community, was doing his job and directing his band during their performance — the 5th Quarter,” Givan said Monday.
Why was Mims arrested?
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 game.
Police say officers spoke with both schools’ band directors to end the performance so students and attendees would leave the stadium. Officers were able to get Jackson-Olin’s band to stop performing.
Officers presented the case to the City of Birmingham Magistrate’s Office; and obtained warrants for disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest.
What do Mims and Jefferson County schools have to say?
As of Tuesday morning, Mims had not commented publicly. Givan called the incident an egregious violation of civil rights, and said Mims was subjected to excessive force and wrongful arrest.
Givan is calling on the city and police officials to place all of the officers involved on administrative leave pending further investigation.
“Without any justifiable cause, a Birmingham police officer approached the band director, escalating the situation to an unimaginable extent,’’ Givan said. “The officer deployed a taser against the band director, causing physical harm and inflicting emotional distress all while in front of his students.”
“This incident is an alarming abuse of power and a clear violation of our client’s civil rights,’’ she said. “It is unacceptable for law enforcement to engage in home rule in the field of play or with regard to band activities unless there is a significant threat to the safety of the general public.”
“We will not rest until justice is served and those responsible are held accountable,’’ Givan said. “This case highlights the urgent need for police reform, training and the protection of every citizen’s rights.”
Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin on Tuesday declined to discuss the specifics of body cam footage of the tasing and arrest.
“My initial reaction is sadness,” Gonsoulin said.
“It’s extremely upsetting to me that our students, our children, had to witness that scene. Nothing is more important than their well-being. Counselors from our JEFCOED Cares team have been made available to those students who wish to talk about what they saw.”
What led to the tasing?
The seven-minute body cam video shows an officer approaching a Minor staff member and an officer saying, “It’s time to go.” The band was still in the stands playing.
They then approached Mims, who said repeatedly, “Get out of my face,” to the officers.
A male officer said, “I got my troops coming and they gonna sweep their asses out.”
Mims continued to direct the band. A female sergeant said, “Load them up before I contact the superintendent.”
Mims said they would leave when they finished their final song.
They continued to go back and forth.
“We got to go. The minutes are over,” the sergeant said. Mims replied, “We’re fixing to go. This is our last song.”
The officer told Mims they had to go immediately. “Get out my face,” Mims said, using a phrase he ended up saying seven times to officers.
The officer asked, “What you gonna do?”
The officer war edMnims he would go to jail. “That’s cool,” Mims said, holding up two thumbs.
Mims directed the band to continue to play. “Are you going to keep going?” the officer asked.
The field lights were turned off.
The sergeant yelled, “Put him in handcuffs.” Mims then signaled the band to end the song.
An officer attempted to arrest Mims as he yelled, “Get off of me, bruh.”
Police got one handcuff on Mims, but couldn’t secure the second side.
An officer could be heard saying, “I’m fixin to tase you” to Mims.
Moments later an officer said, “He going to jail. He hit the officer. He’s gotta go to jail.”
Mims replied, “I did not swing on the officer.”
Police repeatedly told him to put his hands behind his back. That’s when an officer deployed a taser stun gun.
The first stun had no effect and Mims was struck two more times with the stun gun. “In front of the kids?” a woman was heard shouting as the stun gun is used.
An officer deployed the stun gun at Mims. It appeared to strike him in the mid torso area.
Mims dropped to the ground. Multiple people – including band members – watched and many witnesses could be heard yelling and screaming. Police could be seen restraining people as the arrest occurred. He was treated and released from UAB Hospital and then booked.
What happens next?
School officials on Monday said Mims is on administrative leave with pay – which is standard protocol – while they continue to investigate and gather facts.
Birmingham Police Chief Scott Thurmond met with Mayor Randall Woodfin, City of Birmingham leadership, BPD leadership, Birmingham City Schools Director Dr. Mark Sullivan, and his leadership team, as well as Dr. Gonsoulin and his leadership team.
The Birmingham police Internal Affairs Division is investigating, as it does with all incidents where an officer uses force during an arrest.
Givan said the legal team is working with the Alabama Education Association to “investigate the incident, gather evidence and pursue legal action against the Birmingham Police Department.”
The Alabama Education Association and Givan will hold a joint press conference on Wednesday to further address the incident.
“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 Tuesday.
“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.”