Six Atlanta cops are facing criminal charges after a viral video showed them swarming two local college kids as they sat in their car Saturday night, before breaking their windows, slashing their tires, tasing them, and dragging them out of the vehicle screaming.
Already, two cops were fired over the incident, shortly after the city reviewed body-worn camera footage and determined they used excessive force when encountering the students.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard described the young adults at a news conference Tuesday as “so innocent, almost to the point of being naive.” “We noted that these were really two of the nicest people we had ever gotten a chance to meet in the DA’s office,” Howard said.
The students, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim of Spelman College and 22-year-old Messiah Young of Morehouse College, were caught in their car Saturday, in the midst of ongoing protests over police brutality. They were looking for a place to eat.
“I hope every police officer who thinks it’s OK to drag someone, beat someone, do all this stuff because they’re cops — I hope they’re all going to be held accountable as well,” Pilgrim said at a press conference Tuesday.
Traffic was at a standstill, and Young, the driver of the car, started filming the surrounding chaos, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Someone he knew was being arrested several feet away. Body-camera footage showed that man screaming and sobbing, “Please, no.” Young pleaded for the man to be released.
An officer pulled Young’s door open, at which point Young said, “I’m not dying today,” according to body-camera footage obtained by WABE, a public radio station in Atlanta. He pulled the door back shut. The police actually told Young to leave or face jail, Howard said. So he left. “Let him go!” Young said, before driving a few feet away.
But the car was stuck in traffic, and officers ran toward it. They tried to open the doors. The car was locked. One cop broke the driver's-side window with a billy club. Both Young and Pilgrim were tased — Young is seen in body-camera footage trying to shield Pilgrim, pulling electrodes off her as she’s struck — before they were dragged out of the car.
Young suffered a fractured arm and required 24 stitches after the incident. Officers later said they repeatedly tased him because they believed he had a gun and thought he was going to reverse the car and run over an officer, although video does not support that. Additionally, no gun was recovered at the scene, Howard said
Pilgrim was never charged with any crime. Young was escorted to the police station, punched in the back several times by an officer en-route, and then taken to the hospital, according to Howard. He was charged with attempting to elude police, but the charges were later dismissed.
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorize anyone else,” Young said Tuesday. Investigators Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner — the two officers fired over the incident Sunday — were both charged with aggravated assault as a result of the incident. Streeter was also charged with pointing a gun at Young, Howard announced Tuesday.
Officer Lonnie Hood was charged with aggravated assault and simple battery; Officer Willie Sauls was charged with aggravated assault and criminal damage to property; Officer Roland Claud was charged with criminal damage; and Officer Armond Jones was charged with aggravated battery and pointing or aiming a gun.
The officers are supposed to turn themselves in by June 5.
Cover: Taniyah Pilgrim holds Messiah Young's bandaged hand as he speaks during a news conference on the campus of Morehouse College Monday, June 1, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)