Six police officers from Atlanta, Georgia have been charged after a dramatic video showed authorities pulling two young people from a car and shooting them with stun guns while they were stuck in traffic caused by protests over George Floyd’s death, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges during a news conference. Atlanta police did not immediately have a comment Tuesday.
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorise anyone else,” said 22-year-old Messiah Young, who was dragged from the vehicle along with his girlfriend, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim.
A director of the police union, however, said the move to bring charges without a thorough investigation was unfair to the officers, none of whom have been interviewed.
“We believe that this is premature,” said Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, adding that he believed officials were trying to score political points rather than uncover all the facts. “Why were the students stopped? We don’t know the answer to that.”
The Saturday night incident first gained attention from video online and on local news. Throughout, the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening.
Two Atlanta police officers are finally fired after body-camera footage showed they used excessive force in protest incident. Please tell me how anybody thinks this is remotely okay?! Or why so many cops are covering their badge numbers and body cams pic.twitter.com/pWHvmbILaj
— Sytrux (@Sytruxx) May 31, 2020
Two of the officers were fired Sunday after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Erika Shields determined from body camera footage that they had used excessive force.
Pilgrim was released without charges. Howard said Young was charged with attempting to elude the officers, and the mayor has said she’s ordering his charges dropped.
Body camera video from seven officers shows police taking another young man into custody in a downtown street alongside a line of stopped cars. The man, whom Howard identified as Chancellor Meyers, is pleading with police to let him go, saying he didn’t do anything.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of a car stopped in the street, Young holds up his phone, appearing to shoot video as an officer approaches and pulls the driver’s side door open. Young pulls the door shut and says repeatedly, “I’m not dying today.” He urges the officers to release the other man and let him get in the car as the dark sedan advances a bit.
The car gets stuck in traffic and officers run up to both sides of the car shouting orders. An officer uses a stun gun on Pilgrim as she’s trying to get out of the car and then officers pull her from the vehicle.
Another officer yells at Young to put the car in park and open the window. An officer repeatedly hits the driver’s side window with a baton, and another officer finally manages to break it.
As the glass shatters, an officer uses a stun gun on Young and officers pull him from the car as officers shout, “Get your hand out of your pockets,” and, “He got a gun. He got a gun. He got a gun.” Once he’s out of the car and on the ground, officers zip tie Young’s hands behind his back and lead him away.
Howard said no gun was found.
Young’s arm was fractured and he suffered a gash requiring 24 stitches when he was pulled from the car, Howard said. Young told Howard’s investigators that an officer who escorted him from the scene after his arrest punched him in the back more than 10 times as they walked.
“I’m so happy that they’re being held accountable for their actions,” Pilgrim said at the news conference.
Both Young and Pilgrim are rising seniors at historically black colleges near downtown Atlanta. Young, from Chicago, is studying business management at Morehouse College. Pilgrim, who’s from San Antonio, Texas, is studying psychology at Spelman College.
The two officers whose firings were announced Sunday – Investigator Ivory Streeter and Investigator Mark Gardner – were charged along with four other officers.
Streeter is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Young and is also charged with pointing a gun at Young, arrest warrants say.
Gardner is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Pilgrim, a warrant says.
Lonnie Hood is charged with aggravated assault against both Young and Pilgrim for using a Taser against both of them, an arrest warrant says. He is also charged with simple battery for violently pulling Pilgrim from the car and throwing her down on to the street, a warrant says.
Willie Sauls is charged with aggravated assault for pointing a Taser at Pilgrim, a warrant says. He’s also charged with criminal damage for repeatedly hitting and damaging the driver’s side window of the car, which belongs to Pilgrim, a warrant says.
Armond Jones is charged with aggravated battery for hurting Young’s left arm when he dragged him from the car and slammed him onto the street, a warrant says. He’s also charged with pointing a gun at Young.
Roland Claud is charged with criminal damage for using a “window punch” to break the windows of Pilgrim’s car, a warrant says.
Howard says he has asked a judge to set a signature bond of $10,000, which means the officers would not have to pay anything unless they fail to show up for court dates. The two main reasons for that is to limit the number of people in the Fulton County jail during the coronavirus pandemic and because they are police officers, Howard said.
The officers have been asked to turn themselves in by the end of the day Friday, he said.