Two Atlanta Police Department officers have been fired for excessive force used during an arrest on Saturday night at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. They were among at least five police officers that attacked college students Messiah Young and Teniyah Pilgrim inside their car. The incident was broadcast live on TV, and according to a report by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms personally reviewed their body camera footage before ordering them fired.
Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields decided to fire two of the officers involved in the arrest of 22-year-old Young and 20-year-old Pilgrim while putting three other officers on desk duty pending an internal investigation. They reached their decision based on body cam footage, although news coverage of the arrest had already horrified viewers around the world. It showed police smashing in the windows of Young's moving car, slashing the tires and tasing them both multiple times before pulling them out. Young and Pilgrim did not appear to be breaking any laws and were not involved in the protests.
Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim are college students. Coaches if they were your players - how would you feel?? I can’t even watch this without my eyes watering. THIS. IS. NOT. OKAY. AND. IT. IS. NOT. OKAY. TO. BE. SILENT. pic.twitter.com/xRCA62ydjn— Cristina Centeno (@Coach_Centeno) June 1, 2020
"I share [the officers' firings] with you because that is what you will see happen each and every day with the city of Atlanta going forward," Bottoms said. "Our attitudes toward how we not only police our communities, but how we respond to policing our communities, has to change. I offer my apologies to the students and look forward to speaking with them directly."
Police officials argued that these firings and reassignments were premature, claiming that Young had impeded traffic, creating a legitimate reason to stop him. They also claimed that officers believed Young was reaching for a gun, though no weapon was recovered from the scene. Vince Champion of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers said that the video was insufficient proof because we "don't know what happened prior" to the traffic stop."
the couple in this video were not protesters & were on their way home. the young man, Messiah Young is epileptic. due to being tased three(+) times, he had a seizure and was taken to jail from the hospital. his girlfriends name is Taniyah Pilgrim. we cannot let this go unheard. https://t.co/SocU74WGhZ— 🔪♥ 𝖋𝖊𝖒𝖆𝖑𝖊 𝖈𝖆𝖘𝖆𝖓𝖔𝖛𝖆 ♥ ⛓ (@justcallmenever) May 31, 2020
A GoFundMe campaign was set up in Young and Pilgrim's names by a family friend, and their story has been circulating on social media. According to the campaign updates, Pilgrim was freed from jail late on Saturday and Young was freed on Sunday night or Monday morning. The Atlanta Police Department determined that both had been wrongfully arrested, yet the money being raised to pay their bail is now going to lawyers, medical bills, therapy and the repair of Young's car. The campaign has surpassed its goal of $150,000 and will be closed soon, organizers say.
Another Twitter user claiming to be familiar with the situation wrote that Young is epileptic, and the three taser shots triggered a seizure which caused him to be hospitalized. He is now reportedly safe at home.