Authorities in Atlanta have charged six police officers for using excessive force in the arrest of two African American college students after a video showed them dragging the students from a car and tasing them.
Spelman College student Teniyah Pilgrom, 20, and former Morehouse College student Messiah Young, 22, were in a dark-colored Sedan driving near downtown Atlanta during a protest when the incident happened.
In a body camera video of the incident, which occurred at the time the city was enforcing a curfew aimed at curtailing rioting and looting following a nationwide protest in the aftermath of George Floyd’s gruesome killing to demand an end to racism and police brutality against blacks, an officer is seen trying to pull out the driver from the vehicle, which was stopped in the middle of the street, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
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The two African American College students were yelled at continually to stop the vehicle and open the window by an officer. That officer also banged the driver’s side window with a baton before deciding it was time to smash it. And that he did.
The occupants of the vehicle were then tased by the howling officer and a colleague amid cries and pleas for the officers to stop. The incident reportedly occurred at Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Andrew Young International Boulevard.
The charges, which were announced Tuesday by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard come on the back of the firing of two officers involved in the incident.
The said officers were fired Sunday after a painstaking review of the body camera footage with three others also placed on desk duty pending investigations, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during a news conference on Sunday.
“I share (the officers’ firings) with you because that is what you will see happen each and every day with the city of Atlanta going forward,” Bottoms said. “Our attitudes toward how we not only police our communities but how we respond to policing our communities has to change.”
Five of the officers were charged with aggravated assault alongside many other charges. Lonnie Hood for instance was slapped with two counts of aggravated assault for using his Taser and one count of simple battery, CBS reported. Another officer, Willie Sauls, according to the outlet faces one count of aggravated assault for pointing his Taser and one count of criminal damage to property for damaging the car.
Ivory Streeter also has one count of aggravated assault for using a Taser and one count of pointing or aiming a gun; Mark Gardner was indicted for aggravated assault and use of Taser, Armond Jones faces one count of aggravated battery and one count of pointing or aiming a gun. Meanwhile, Roland Claud escaped from being charged with assault or battery but faces one count of criminal damage to property for damaging the car, according to CBS.
This is the third time ever that the DA’s office has brought charges for police officers before they were indicted and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard observed that Young and Pilgrim were “extremely innocent.”
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorize anyone else,” said one of the students.
The Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood Police Officers had other thoughts regarding the actions taken against the officers. Vince Champion argued that the actions were taken prematurely.
“There’s a process. There’s an investigation. Then you determine what actually happened,” he was quoted as saying.