A group of police officers involved in tasering two Atlanta college students caught in traffic on live TV last weekend were criminally charged in connection with the viral incident.
Two of the officers, Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who were fired after the Saturday night (May 30) arrest of Spelman College student Taniyah Pilgrim, and Messiah Young, who attends Morehouse College. The two seniors were waiting to move their vehicle near downtown Atlanta, which emerged in the chaos that has gripped the nation in the wake of protests of the death of George Floyd.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Streeter and Gardner were charged with aggravated assault. Four other officers who were present during the arrest are also facing charges.
Officer Lonnie Hood was given two counts of aggravated assault and one count of simple battery; Officer Willie Sauls has a charge of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property; Officer Armond Jones was charged with aggravated assault and pointing or aiming a gun; and Officer Ronald Claud charged with criminal damage to property.
Video of their apprehension went viral, and showed their car window being shattered and their tires were slashed by officers after the couple was caught in traffic, according to local station WXIA.
See the disturbing video below:
Pilgrim and Young have spoken out about what happened to them.
“I still can’t even process what happened,” said Pilgrim 22, a senior, at a news conference Monday. “We felt like we were going to die in that car.”
She continued, “This is the most traumatic thing that has ever happened. I’m very shaken up, I don’t know how to act or what to do. I just can’t stop thinking about if cameras weren’t there or if they would have went a little bit further – I can’t stop thinking about what could have happened.”
Pilgrim also claimed one of the officers “did the worse thing. Walking me and Messiah off he said that he was going to shoot us. This is stuff that shouldn’t be said after all the trauma.”
In one horrific moment, the police officers can be heard screaming that Messiah Young has a gun. According to WABE, “Police reports do not list a gun as having been recovered… No gun or drugs in the car.
A lawyer for Young, Mawuli Davis, said, “There is no justification, none whatsoever, for what they did to them and for what the system did to them… If there was a gun, best believe this would have had a very different outcome.”
Young said, “This isn’t just about me, this isn’t just about us. This is an entire generation that has to deal with brutality and injustice and wrongdoing for nothing because of the color of their skin or simply because what they prefer.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the video “deeply disturbing on many levels.”
Messiah Young, also a senior, was charged with attempting to elude police and driving with a suspended license. His lawyer is trying to get the charges dropped.
To hear more of Messiah and Taniyah’s story, see their Tuesday (June 1) interview with Good Morning America today.
Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Sunday night (May 31) that two of the officers have been fired. Bottoms says one of the officers had been on the force for 16 years, and the other for 20. She also says the three other officers involved have been placed on desk duty.
See Mayor Bottoms’ press conference in full, below:
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.