Six police officers from Atlanta have been charged after a forcefully pulling two college students out of a car to arrest them. A dramatic video revealed cops tasing the two young people, smashing the windows of the car while they were stuck in traffic caused by protests over George Floyd’s death, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced about their charges during a news conference. According to Paul arrest warrants were issued for Lonnie Hood, Roland Claud, Mark Gardner, Armond Jones, Willie Sauls and Ivory Streeter who were identified in the video caught on camera. Atlanta police did not immediately have a comment Tuesday.
The cops were variously charged with aggravated assault, pointing or aiming a gun, simple battery and criminal damage to property, according to Howard.
Howard said there was no reason to wait for a findings to charge these officers because the “information is available” and they “usually don’t have witnesses because the witnesses are usually deceased and are police officers who refuse to interview with the district attorney’s office.”
“I feel a little safer now that these monsters are off of the street and no longer able to terrorise anyone else,” said 22-year-old Messiah Young, the young student who was dragged from the vehicle along with his girlfriend, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim.
A director of the police union, however, said the decision to bring charges without a thorough investigation was unfair to the officers, none of whom have been interviewed.
“We believe that this is premature,” said Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. Champion added that he believed officials were trying to secure political points rather than reveal all the facts. “Why were the students stopped? We don’t know the answer to that.”
The incident occurred when Messiah Young, who was driving Pilgram’s car, stopped in traffic and seemed to shoot a video as an officer was having an encounter with another protestor, Young told GMA on Tuesday morning.
The incident which took place on Saturday night first gained attention from a video released online and on local news. During which, the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening.
Two Atlanta police officers are finally fired after body-camera footage showed they used excessive force in protest incident. Please tell me how anybody thinks this is remotely okay?! Or why so many cops are covering their badge numbers and body cams pic.twitter.com/pWHvmbILaj
— Sytrux (@Sytruxx) May 31, 2020
“I thought both Messiah and I were going to die,” Pilgram, a student at Spelman College, told GMA.
Two of the officers were fired on Sunday after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Erika Shields discovered from body camera footage that they had used unnecessary force.
Whereas, Pilgrim was released without charges. Howard said the boy was charged with attempting to escape the officers, and the mayor has said she’s ordering his charges dismissed.
According to Young, he was only confronting a friend he recognized from among the protestors who also had an encounter with the police. Young said he was only asking if his friend was okay or not.
From the body cameras of seven officers, another young man can be seen caught by the officers, asking for help, Young only wanted to help the boy but suddenly the officer’s run-up to both sides of the car shouting orders. After which, the two students are forced out of their car aggressively.
Howard said Young asked the officer to allow the other young man, to get into his car, who was thrown on the ground and was crying for help.
“You can hear the officer say, ‘Go or go to jail,’ so Mr Young left,” told Howard.
The cops allegedly used a baton to break the windows several times. The officers then tased the students accusing Young of having a gun repeatedly. However, 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, according to Howard. Young also told Howard’s investigators that an officer who conducted him from the scene after his arrest punched him in the back continuously, more than 10 times as they walked.
“I’m so happy that they’re being held accountable for their actions,” Tanyiah Pilgrim said at the news conference.
The two officers who were announced fired on Sunday – Investigator Ivory Streeter and Investigator Mark Gardner – were charged along with four other officers.
Streeter is charged with complicated assault for using a Taser against Young and is also charged with aiming a gun at Young, arrest warrants say.
Gardner is charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Pilgrim, according to a warrant.
Lonnie Hood is charged with aggravated assault against both Young and Pilgrim for using a Taser against both of them. He is also charged with simple battery for forcefully pulling Pilgrim from the car and thrusting her down on to the street, a warrant says.
Willie Sauls is charged with aggravated assault for pointing a Taser at Pilgrim. He’s also charged with criminal damage for continuously hitting and damaging the driver’s side window of the car, which belongs to Pilgrim, a warrant said.
Armond Jones is charged with aggravated battery for hurting Young’s left arm when he was dragged from the car by him and threw him onto the street, a warrant says. He is also charged with pointing a gun at Young.
Roland Claud is charged with criminal damage for using a “window punch” to crack the windows of Pilgrim’s car, a warrant says.
Howard says he has asked a judge to set a signature bond of $10,000, which suggests the officers would not have to pay anything except if they fail to show up for court dates. The only 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 ordered to turn themselves in by the end of the day till Friday, June 5 he said.
Howard also praised the mayor’s swift actions as “the conduct of these officers is not indicative of the way we treat people in the city of Atlanta and certainly not our children.”