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Charges laid against officers who pulled students from car

ATLANTA (AP) — A prosecutor said Monday he would not prosecute Atlanta police officers involved in a May 2020 confrontation with two college students who were knocked unconscious by Tasers and pulled from a car while pinned down. in traffic caused by protests over the death of George Floyd.

Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, two students at historically black colleges in Atlanta, were confronted by police in downtown Atlanta on May 30, 2020. Within days, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said announced that arrest warrants had been obtained for six officers.

“Not only did law enforcement act within their legal authority in their actions to achieve compliance, but their actions were also largely consistent with the Atlanta Police Department’s Use of Force Policy,” Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Samir Patel said in a statement. Monday.

Patel rejected warrants filed against the officers involved: Ivory Streeter, Mark Gardner, Lonnie Hood, Roland Claud, Willie Sauls and Armon Jones. He said he was “unable to find probable cause to prosecute the officers involved for a crime under Georgia law.”

Lawyers L. Chris Stewart, Justin Miller and Mawuli Davis, who represent Pilgrim and Young, said the two youngsters were “incredibly disappointed and discouraged” by Patel’s decision to dismiss the charges.

“The world has witnessed the outrageous and unjustified level of violence perpetrated against these students. How can a broken arm and 25 stitches be considered the proper response for an alleged curfew violation? the lawyers said in an emailed statement.

State Attorney General Chris Carr in July named Patel to take over the case after Howard lost his re-election bid in November 2020 and his successor said Howard’s actions made management inappropriate. of the case by his office.

Video of the confrontation quickly circulated online. The day after the incident, then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and then-Police Chief Erika Shields announced that two officers had been fired and three others placed on desk duty.

They said at the time that they reviewed police body camera footage before making their decision. After this review, Bottoms said, “The use of excessive force is never okay.” Shields called the footage “really shocking to watch”.

Police released the body camera video the night after the confrontation.

It shows police arresting another young man on a downtown street next to a line of stopped cars. The man begs the police to let him go, claiming he did nothing.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of a car stopped on the street, Young raises his phone, appearing to shoot video as an officer approaches and opens the driver’s side door. Young closes the door and urges the officers to release the other man and let him into the car as the darkened sedan drives forward a bit.

The car is stuck in traffic and officers run to both sides of the car shouting orders. An officer uses a stun gun on Pilgrim as she tries to get out of the car, then officers pull her out of the vehicle.

Another officer yells at Young to park the car and open the window. One officer repeatedly hits the driver’s side window with a baton, and another finally manages to break it.

As the glass shatters, an officer uses a stun gun on Young and officers pull him from the car, some shouting, “Get your hand out of your pockets” and “He has a gun. He has a gun. He has a gun. After Young is out of the car and on the ground, officers tie his hands behind his back and take him away.

Police reports do not indicate that a firearm was recovered.

At a press conference two days later, Pilgrim said that she and Young “felt like we were going to die in that car.”

Patel’s statement said the video that was distributed after the incident “was not an accurate depiction of the entire encounter between Mr. Young, Ms. Pilgrim and law enforcement.” It was not immediately clear whether these were the first videos that circulated online or the body camera video.

The evidence shows that the two students violated a curfew put in place due to the protests, and that “the officers’ use of force was a direct result of the officers’ resistance and failure to follow the officers’ instructions.” Mr. Young and Mrs. Pilgrim,” the statement read. said. It also shows “the use of the Taser, and indeed any force used by the officers ended immediately once Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim were subdued.”

Streeter and Gardner were the officers who were fired. Their layoffs were reversed in February 2021 after the Atlanta Public Service Board found the city was not following its own personnel procedures.