The victims – Spelman College student Teniyah Pilgrom, 20 and former Morehouse College student Messiah Young, 22 – were in a dark-colored Sedan driving near downtown Atlanta when they were stopped.
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.
According to AJC, 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.
Addressing a news conference Sunday, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the two officers were fired after a painstaking review of the body camera footage. Three others were also placed on desk duty pending investigations.
“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, according to AJC. “Our attitudes toward how we not only police our communities but how we respond to policing our communities has to change.”
But the Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood Police Officers had other thoughts regarding the firing of the officers. Vince Champion contends that the action was taken prematurely.
AJC reported Champion as saying: “There’s a process. There’s an investigation. Then you determine what actually happened.”
“I look at the video like I look at all videos. I don’t know what happened prior to. We don’t know why that car was stopped. Until we know what happened, we don’t know if the officers did anything wrong or no,” he added.
The Georgia NAACP and other civil rights groups condemned the encounter with Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, saying at a press conference: “We are done with the brutality and dehumanization of black bodies.”