Six Atlanta police officers have been charged for assaulting two college students who were attempting to leave a protest Saturday. Two of the officers involved have already been fired from the department.
Messiah Young, 22, and Teniyah Pilgrim, 20, were leaving a George Floyd protest at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park after the city's 9 p.m. curfew went into effect CBS affiliate WGCL reported. Video of the incident shows an officer tell Young, who was driving the car, to keep moving but then the officer opens the door and tries to pull Young out of the car. Young manages to drive off but is stopped down the road by traffic. Officers then swarm the car.
One officer opens the passenger-side door as another attempts to break the driver-side window. The officer on the passenger side then uses his Taser on Pilgrim, who could be heard screaming throughout the encounter. Young can also be seen being tased before officers pull him from the car. Young also said he was punched at least 10 times while he was being subdued on the pavement. The entire incident was filmed live by WGCL.
At one point, officers can be heard saying Young had a gun, but none was ever recovered. Pilgrim was held for several hours but never charged. Young was initially charged with fleeing the scene and driving with an expired license, but the mayor later ordered those charges to be dropped, WGCL reports.
Lonnie Hood faces two counts of aggravated assault for using his Taser and one count of simple battery. Willie Sauls 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 faces one count of aggravated assault for the use of a Taser and one count of pointing or aiming a gun. Mark Gardner has been charged with aggravated assault for using his Taser as well. Armon Jones has been charged with one count of aggravated battery and one count of pointing or aiming a gun. Roland Claud was the only officer to not be charged with assault or battery but faces one count of criminal damage to property for damaging the car.
The charges were announced Tuesday at a press conference by Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. Streeter and Gardner were both fired Sunday.
"These are good guys," Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said at a Sunday news conference. "I know them as individuals. I've worked with the one for over 20 years. But they made that level of mistake that cannot be rolled back."
Howard said Tuesday this is the third time ever that the DA's office has brought charges for police officers before they were indicted. He also noted that Young and Pilgrim were "extremely innocent."
"Unfortunately, we have been here many, many times before, where officers are arrested," said Young's attorney, Mawuli Davis. "And so we are prayerful, hopeful that this will go to its full conclusion. And these officers will not only be arrested, indicted and convicted. Because what they did to our children, and these are our community children, they have to be held accountable for."
Pilgrim on Tuesday said she is "so happy that they're being held accountable for their actions."
"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," she added.
Young said he feels "a little safer now that these monsters are off of the streets and no longer able to terrorize anyone else from this point on."
He also stressed the need to make sure there "really is change moving forward in the culture of policing."
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