ATLANTA – Six Atlanta police officers were charged Tuesday after dramatic video showed authorities pulling two young people from a car and shooting them with stun guns while they were stuck in traffic caused by protests over George Floyd’s death.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges during a news conference.
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorize anyone else,” said 22-year-old Messiah Young, who was dragged from the vehicle along with his girlfriend, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim.
The Saturday night incident first gained attention from video online and on local news. Throughout, the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening.
Two of the officers were fired Sunday after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Erika Shields determined they had used excessive force. The other four have been placed on administrative leave, police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said in an email Tuesday.
Pilgrim was released without charges. Howard said Young was charged with attempting to elude the officers, and the mayor has said she's ordering his charges dropped.
Body camera video from seven officers shows police taking another young man into custody in a downtown street. The man, whom Howard identified as Chancellor Meyers, tells officers he didn’t do anything.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of a car stopped in the street, Young holds up his phone, shooting video as an officer approaches and pulls the driver’s door open. Young pulls the door shut and says repeatedly, “I’m not dying today.” He urges the officers to release Meyers and let him get in the car as the dark sedan advances a bit.
The car gets stuck in traffic and officers run up to both sides of it, shouting orders. An officer uses a Taser on Pilgrim as she’s trying to get out of the car and then officers pull her out.
Another officer yells at Young to open the window. An officer repeatedly hits the driver’s side window with a baton, and another officer finally manages to break it.
As the glass shatters, an officer uses a Taser on Young and officers pull him from the car as officers shout, “Get your hand out of your pockets,” and, “He got a gun. He got a gun. He got a gun.” Once he’s out of the car and on the ground, officers zip tie Young’s hands behind his back and lead him away.
Howard said no gun was found.
Young suffered a fractured arm and a gash requiring 24 stitches as he was pulled from the car, Howard said. Young told Howard's investigators that an officer who escorted him away after his arrest punched him in the back more than 10 times as they walked.
“I’m so happy that they’re being held accountable for their actions," Pilgrim said at the news conference.
Young and Pilgrim are rising seniors at historically black colleges near downtown Atlanta. Young, from Chicago, is studying business management at Morehouse College. Pilgrim, from San Antonio, Texas, is studying psychology at Spelman College.
The two officers who were fired Sunday — Investigator Ivory Streeter and Investigator Mark Gardner — were charged with four others.
Streeter is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Young and is also charged with pointing a gun at him, arrest warrants say.
Gardner is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Pilgrim, a warrant says
Lonnie Hood is charged with aggravated assault against both Young and Pilgrim for using a Taser against both of them, an arrest warrant says. He is also charged with simple battery for violently pulling Pilgrim from the car and throwing her down on to the street, a warrant says.
Willie Sauls is charged with aggravated assault for pointing a Taser at Pilgrim, a warrant says. He's also charged with criminal damage for repeatedly hitting and damaging the driver's side window of the car, a warrant says.
Armon Jones is charged with aggravated battery for hurting Young's left arm when he dragged him from the car and slammed him onto the street, a warrant says. He's also charged with pointing a gun at Young.
Roland Claud is charged with criminal damage for breaking the car's windows, a warrant says.
All of the charged officers are black except for Claud, who's white. Atlanta Police Department sworn personnel is about 61% black, according to 2019 numbers provided by the department.
Howard says he has asked a judge to set a signature bond of $10,000, which means they wouldn't have to pay anything unless they fail to show up for court dates. The main reasons for that are to limit the number of people in the Fulton County jail during the coronavirus pandemic and because they are police officers, Howard said.
The officers have been asked to turn themselves in by Friday, he said.