Atlanta, GA – A special prosecutor announced that he has dismissed the charges against six Atlanta police officers who Tased college students that were breaking curfew during the riots that followed George Floyd’s death.
Former Fulton County Prosecutor Paul Howard had charged five of the officers with felonies and the sixth with a misdemeanor in connection with the arrests of 22-year-old Messiah Young and 20-year-old Taniya Pilgrim near Centennial Olympic Park.
After Fani Willis beat Howard in his re-election bid last year, she recused herself from the case due to conflicts of interest and the Georgia attorney general appointed Bartow and Gordon Counties District Attorney Samir Patel to be special prosecutor, WSB reported.
Patel announced on May 23 that he was dropping the charges against Atlanta Police Officers Ivory Streeter, Lonnie Hood, Mark Gardner, Roland Claud, Willie Sauls, and Armond Jones.
“This decision may upset quite a few people, but I cannot let that come into my mind when I made this determination,” he said. “The right thing in applying the law and the facts is to decline prosecuting in this matter.”
The special prosecutor said that the officers had been ordered to detain individuals who were violating the emergency curfew that had been enacted after riots erupted following Floyd’s death in the custody of the Minneapolis police five days earlier.
“These officers had no intent to violate any criminal statute,” Patel said.
He asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to re-investigate the incident in August of 2021 and then cleared the officers of wrongdoing in May, WSB reported.
The incident began on May 30, 2020 when police officers tried to enforce the 9 p.m. curfew set by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after the Floyd riots had left the city burned and vandalized, WGXA reported.
Young and Pilgrim were in a car that was part of the traffic blocking the streets downtown during the enforcement efforts.
When Young saw officers attempting to arrest a man he said was a classmate, he stopped his own car in the traffic and attempted to get involved, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Bodycam video showed he opened his car door, filmed video with his phone, and repeatedly said “I’m not dying today” before telling the officers that the man they were arresting was with him.
Young tried to interfere and get the arresting officers to release the man and let him get into his car and that’s when things went sideways.
An officer opened Young’s car door the rest of the way and the driver hit the gas, fleeing from the officer with his door open.
“Where ya going? You can’t go nowhere,” one of the officers yelled as he pulled away.
Bodycam video showed Young tried to leave but was still stuck in the downtown gridlock.
Officers ran to catch up and approached on both sides of the black, four-door sedan owned by his girlfriend, who was in the passenger’s seat.
Young had locked his doors and put his windows up so one officer asked another officer to smash the back driver’s side window with a collapsible baton, the video showed.
Then the first officer drew his firearm and pointed it in the direction of Young through his windshield.
That’s when an officer opened the passenger door and deployed a Taser into the vehicle, the video showed.
It did not appear to strike Young on the first attempt.
Bodycam video showed that Pilgrim was pulled screaming from the passenger side of the vehicle as an officer in camouflage riot gear deflated the car’s front tires, one at a time.
An officer successfully smashed the driver’s door window and then another officer deployed a Taser at Young through the broken window, hitting his target.
Bodycam video showed Young twitching and struggling as officers pulled open the car door.
An officer repeatedly ordered Young to show his hands and not put his hands in his pockets, but the video showed he did not comply.
In the bodycam videos, officers can be heard shouting “he’s gotta gun!”
Officers pulled Young from the vehicle and put him down on the pavement to handcuff and search him, the video showed.
The police report did not say that officers found a weapon on him when he was searched, WGXA reported.
Once Young was secured, they stood him up and walked him off to be booked, the video showed.
His girlfriend was taken into custody separately by other officers.
“Officers made repeated attempts to obtain compliance, they refused and these officers used the force they deemed necessary and reasonable,” Patel said.
The special prosecutor said that neither Young nor Pilgrim were charged in connection with the incident and that the police officers shouldn’t be charged, either, WSB reported.
“It became abundantly clear based upon the case law that these officers acted within their lawful scope and their actions were not criminal,” Patel said.