Alabama School Band Director Says Police Used a Taser to Stop the Music

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The football team of Minor High School in Adamsville, Ala., had just beaten its opponent at an away game in Birmingham last week when Johnny Mims, the school’s band director, told his musicians to play three more tunes in celebration as the crowd prepared to file out of the stadium.

After all, the Minor Tigers had just defeated the Mustangs of P.D. Jackson-Olin High School 27-0.

But when officers with the Birmingham Police Department told him to stop the music, Mr. Mims said at a news conference on Wednesday, he refused, explaining that he and the band director for the Mustangs, the home team, had agreed to keep playing in a tradition known as a “fifth-quarter” performance.

Mr. Mims did not stop, and the verbal confrontation with the police escalated. Officers with Birmingham Police Department proceeded to try to arrest him. At this point, the police said, Mr. Mims pushed an officer, and the police repeatedly used a Taser on him.

“I was just doing my job, as an educator, instructing the band, allowing the band to play,” said Mr. Mims, who denied that he had assaulted an officer. “I was not trying to be defiant to the Police Department.”

Mr. Mims, 39, who was treated at a hospital, was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest, and was released on bond, the police said. The department said its internal affairs unit was investigating the use of force by its officers.

Since the confrontation on Sept. 14, educators, lawyers and a state legislator have spoken out in support of Mr. Mims. Chief Scott Thurmond of the Birmingham Police Department met with the Birmingham mayor, Randall Woodfin, and the superintendents of both the Birmingham and Jefferson County school districts before releasing a video from a police body camera on Tuesday showing his department’s interaction with Mr. Mims.

The members of the 145-strong Minor band from Adamsville, a city with a population of about 4,200 people, were on their rival’s turf, about a dozen miles to the southeast, when they were playing their “fifth quarter” performance, a tradition at historically Black colleges and universities.

Mr. Mims has been put on administrative leave from his job, in which, he says, he has cultivated a supportive “family” relationship with students in the band, whom he greets every morning and who now have witnessed him being struck with a Taser.

“This is something that should never have happened,” he said at the news conference. “We are very tight. It’s heartbreaking. It’s traumatizing.”

In the video released by the police, at least two officers tell Mr. Mims, standing in front of the band as it plays, that it is “time to go” and “load them up.” He says “get out of my face” at least five times as he stands in front of the bleachers, conducting the students.

“We’re fixing to go, this is our last song,” he says.

“You will go to jail,” an officer says.

Mr. Mims puts his thumb up, saying, “That’s cool.”

As the band plays on, and cheerleaders perform behind him, Mr. Mims counts rhythms and conducts. About three minutes into the encounter, during which the officers try to get him to stop, the stadium lights go out, plunging the musicians and those around them into darkness. Screams go up from the crowd.

The song is over, and the music ends.

In the darkness, Mr. Mims can hardly be seen in the video. Several officers surround him and try to put handcuffs on him. One police officer, referring to another, says that Mr. Mims “hit the officer, he got to go to jail.” Mr. Mims says he did not. He is then struck with a Taser at least three times, including when on the ground.

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

State Representative Juandalynn Givan, a Democrat representing Jefferson County, and officials from the Alabama Education Association, which represents the state’s educators, said at the news conference that they wanted the police officers to be held responsible for their actions and for the charges against Mr. Mims to be dropped.

Ms. Givan, a lawyer who is representing Mr. Mims, said she was speaking with city attorneys and that association representatives had asked for the officers to be placed on administrative leave.

“This would dare not have happened in a majority-white school in the state of Alabama that you would see a Black police officer Tasing anyone on those campuses,” she said.

“We feel that it was an assault on him, physically as well as on his character,” Ms. Givan said.

Calls to the police and the Jefferson County School District on Thursday were not immediately returned.

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