Police Who Tased Students in 2020 Won't Be Prosecuted

The prosecutor says officers 'acted within the scope of their legal authority'
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2022 6:10 PM CDT
Police Who Tased Students in 2020 Won't Be Prosecuted
In this Saturday, May 30, 2020, photo taken from police body camera video, an officer points his handgun at Messiah Young while the college student is seated in his vehicle. Two officers were fired the next day for use of excessive force during the arrest.   (Atlanta Police Department via AP, File)

In one of the more viral videos to emerge during nationwide protests in 2020 surrounding George Floyd’s death, two college students—Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim—were tased and pulled from their car by Atlanta police. The very next day, then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired two officers and placed three on administrative leave; soon after, all six officers involved were charged by DA Paul Howard with various crimes, including aggravated assault. This week, almost two years after the incident, Cherokee District Attorney Samir Patel announced that he was dropping all charges, reports the AP, saying in a statement that police acted "within the scope of their legal authority" and he was "unable to find probable cause to prosecute the officers."

Patel was appointed by the state district attorney after Howard failed to be reelected and the incoming Atlanta DA cited actions by her predecessor that made it "inappropriate" to take the case. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, although the video sparked "widespread condemnation during the social reckoning over officers’ use-of-force against Black people," both Bottoms and Howard were heavily criticized for firing and charging police so quickly. The two fired officers—Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner—had their dismissals overturned in February 2021 by the Atlanta Civil Service Board, which said the city had failed to follow its own personnel procedures.

Attorneys for Young and Pilgrim said in a statement that their clients "are incredibly disappointed and disheartened by the decision announced today … The world witnessed the outrageous and unjustified level of violence perpetrated against these college students. How can a broken arm and 25 stitches be deemed the appropriate response for an alleged curfew violation?" In his statement, Patel said the "officers’ use of force was the direct result of Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim’s resistance to and noncompliance with officers’ instructions." Per Fox5, Patel also said, “I wholeheartedly believe that Georgia has made significant progress in how our communities and police work together.” (More Atlanta stories.)

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