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Alabama high school band director speaks out about being tased, arrested after refusing to end performance

Band director speaks out after being arrested
Alabama high school band director who was tased, arrested accuses police of "excessive" force 01:23

Alabama high school band director Johnny Mims spoke out Wednesday after being shocked repeatedly with a taser and arrested by Birmingham police at a football game last week in an incident that has since gained national attention. 

Authorities said they took Mims into custody when he refused to direct his students to stop playing music after a game, despite their orders. But an attorney now representing the director is arguing that officers' use of force to detain him was excessive and unwarranted, and traumatized more than 100 students who witnessed the confrontation.

The band director, Johnny Mims, has retained a legal team that is pledging to take action against the Birmingham Police Department, which released body camera footage of the incident on Tuesday. 

Juandalynn Givan, an attorney representing Mims, has alleged that the footage they chose to share publicly leaves out key details about how the incident unfolded, and said Wednesday that additional unreleased footage would support the legal team's accusations that police used excessive force to detain the band director. Givan said she intends to release that additional footage.

 "I should have never been tased," Mims said at a news conference Wednesday morning with his legal team and leadership from the Alabama Education Association. "It was excessive, and no educator should ever have to experience that, but I definitely don't want anyone to lose sight of the students who were caught in the middle of this. They are the most important thing."

Mims, who directs the band at Minor High School in Adamsville, a Birmingham suburb, led the band's performance Thursday on the bleachers at P.D. Jackson-Olin High School, where both football teams had recently finished a game. Both the Minor and Jackson-Olin high school bands continued to play after the game in what is known as the "fifth quarter," Givan said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. The "fifth quarter" is a marching band tradition usually seen at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where students continue to play music after a game ends. 

Mims agreed to direct the Minor High School band through a fifth quarter performance at the suggestion of the Jackson-Olin band director, who conducted his students through their own fifth quarter show on the other side of the field, according to Mims and his attorneys.

Birmingham police officers told the band directors of both high schools to end their students' performances while attempting to clear the stadium following the game, the Birmingham Police Department said in a news release Friday. Police said the Jackson-Olin band director complied with officers' requests, but Mims did not. 

What happened after the football game?

In the body camera footage released Tuesday, which police said begins 18 minutes after the end of the football game, an officer wearing the camera crosses the football field and steps up onto the bleachers, where students are seen standing and playing music. 

When the officer addresses Mims, he continues to conduct the band. "Get out of my face," he tells the officer several times.

"I've got my troops coming," the officer says. The officer then instructs Mims to stop the students playing and tells Mims, "You will go to jail," to which Mims replies, "That's cool." 

Another woman in the video gives similar instructions to Mims to stop the band and warns that she will call the superintendent. 

Footage shows the scene quickly devolve. The stadium lights turn off as an altercation ensues between Mims and at least two police officers, one of whom is wearing the camera. People crowd around them and many are heard screaming. Officers physically restrain Mims and are in the process of handcuffing him when one says, "He hit the officer, he got to go to jail." Mims denies hitting the officer. Givan said that additional body camera footage supports his claim.

"I'm now in possession of that footage," Givan said. "You will see that my client never strike or attempted to strike a Birmingham police officer."

While being ordered to put his hands behind his back, the footage released Tuesday shows Mims being shocked once with a taser. In annotated text included in the body camera video, Birmingham police wrote that the first attempt to shock Mims was "ineffective." Moments later, Mims is shocked again with a taser for a more prolonged period.

Mims was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, physical harassment and resisting arrest, according to police. His attorney said Tuesday that Mims' legal team will investigate the incident, along with the Alabama Education Association, and intends to take legal action against the Birmingham Police Department. 

What's next in Mims' case?

At Wednesday's news conference, Givan called on the city attorney in Birmingham to drop all charges brought against Mims, while Theron Stokes, the associate executive director and lead attorney at the Alabama Education Association, called for his reinstatement on staff at Minor High School. Mims has been placed on administrative leave while Jefferson County Schools pursues its own investigation into the incident. CBS News contacted the school district for more information but did not receive an immediate reply.

Givan and Stokes called the actions by Birmingham officers after the football game "excessive" and "unnecessary, " saying the police department uses stun guns that are particularly powerful and Mims needed medical evaluation after being shocked. The attorney argued that the excalating scene traumatized students who witnessed it.

Stokes pointed out that shutting off the stadium lights actually made it more difficult to safely clear the venue. 

"We appreciate the police department, we respect them. But by the same token their officers must operate in an efficient and safe manner," he said. "If the intention was to protect students at the football game, why would the lights be turned off in there? Why would you allow persons to be trying to exit a stadium in the dark? That is just not justifiable in this situation."

Givan said the legal team has begun gathering evidence for Mims' case and submitted a notice of appearance on his behalf to Birmingham Minicipal Court.

"The objective is not only to seek damages for the pain and suffering endured by the band director, but also to shed light on the systemic issues within law enforcement and advocate for change," Givan said in an earlier statement, calling the incident "an alarming abuse of power and a clear violation of our client's civil rights."

"These matters should be addressed by school district administrators or other leaders with expertise to de-escalate situations like this," the attorney's statement continued. "I am asking the Mayor of Birmingham and the Chief of Police to place all officers involved on administrative leave until further investigation. We will not rest until justice is served and those responsible are held accountable. This case highlights the urgent need for police reform, training and the protection of every citizen's rights."

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