ATLANTA — Six officers accused of using excessive force in the arrest of two college students Saturday night will face charges, according to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.
During a news conference Tuesday, Fulton County District Attorney said arrest warrants had been issued for all six officers involved in the incident. Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
Five of the officers are charged with aggravated assault, in addition to other charges.
Two of the officers, Investigator Ivory Streeter and Investigator Mark Gardner, were fired earlier this week. Streeter has been with the agency since December 2003, and Gardner since August 1997.
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“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.
Body-camera video released by police shows a group of officers shouting orders, smashing the driver’s side window, deploying Tasers and pulling Pilgrim and Young from the car. Throughout, the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference Sunday after reviewing body camera footage that she and police Chief Erika Shields decided to immediately fire two of the officers involved and place three others on desk duty pending investigation.
“Use of excessive force is never acceptable,” Bottoms told reporters. Shields called the footage “really shocking to watch.”
Young suffered a fractured arm and required 20 stitches. He said the arrest was “one of the hardest things that I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
The two were out getting something to eat Saturday night when they got snarled in traffic along Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, their lawyers said. A friend of theirs was standing in the street talking to them while they were stopped when police began to take him into custody, Young’s lawyer Mawuli Davis said.
Young used his phone to film what was happening and that’s when officers turned on him, Davis said, adding he believes the officers’ motivation was to keep his client from capturing what was going on.
Police on Sunday released video from seven officers’ body cameras. It shows the officers taking the other young man into custody as he pleads with them to let him go, saying he didn’t do anything.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of a car stopped in the street, Young holds up his phone, appearing to shoot video as an officer approaches and pulls the driver’s side door open. Young pulls the door shut and says repeatedly, “I’m not dying today.” He urges the officers to release the other man and let him get in the car as the car advances a bit, FOX News reported.
The car gets stuck in traffic and officers run up to both sides of the sedan shouting orders. An officer uses a Taser on Pilgrim as she’s trying to get out of the car, and then officers pull her from the vehicle.
Another officer yells at Young to put the car in park and 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 secure Young’s hands behind his back and lead him away.
Howard said no gun was found.
Young’s arm was fractured and he suffered a gash requiring 24 stitches when he was pulled from the car, Howard said. Young told Howard’s investigators that an officer who escorted him from the scene 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.
The two officers whose firings were announced Sunday — Streeter and Gardner — were charged, along with four other officers.
Streeter is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Young and is also charged with pointing a gun at Young, according to arrest warrants. 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, according to an arrest warrant, and the warrant says Hood is also charged with simple battery for violently pulling Pilgrim from the car and throwing her down on to the street, FOX News reported.
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, which belongs to Pilgrim, according to a warrant.
Armond 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 using a “window punch” to break the windows of Pilgrim’s car, a warrant says.
Howard said he 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 two main reasons for that is 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 told to turn themselves in by the end of the day Friday, he said.