Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Samir Patel, who was later appointed District Attorney Pro Tempore for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, announced Monday that his office will dismiss the charges against Atlanta Police officers Ivory Streeter, Lonnie Hood, Mark Gardner, Ronald Claud, Willie Sauls, and Armond Jones in the incident that saw the officers injure two college students during the height of the George Floyd protests in Downtown Atlanta.
Patel was appointed the special prosecutor after the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis, declined to take up the case due to a conflict of interest.
On May 30, 2020, Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim were approached by law enforcement at 9:44 p.m. According to the affidavit, the evidence in the case showed that the involved officers’ use of force was the direct result of Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim’s resistance to and noncompliance with the officers’ instructions.
Dramatic body-camera video released by police shows a group of officers shouting orders, smashing the driver’s side window, deploying stun guns and pulling Pilgrim and Messiah Young from the sedan. Throughout, the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening.
“I still can’t even process what happened,” Taniyah Pilgrim said at a news conference Monday, June 1, 2020. “We felt like we were going to die in that car.”
Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference on May 31, 2020 reviewing body camera footage that she and former APD Chief Erika Shields decided to immediately fire Streeter and Hood and placed three others on desk duty pending investigation.
Sergeant Lonnie Hood was charged with aggravated assault and simple battery. Officer Armon Jones was charged with aggravated battery and pointing a gun. Both men were fired.
Also indicted were Willie Sauls, charged with aggravated assault and criminal damage, and Roland Claud, charged with criminal damage. Claud and Sauls were terminated.
Investigator Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter would be later reinstated after the Atlanta Civil Service Board found numerous violations of city politics and did not protect Gardner’s and Streeter’s due process rights.
According to the affidavit, the officers’ actions were taken in response to Mr. Young’s and Ms. Pilgrim’s active resistance to the officers’ directives. It is also clear from the evidence that the use of the Taser, and indeed any force used by the officers, ended immediately once Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim were subdued. The actions of the officers were proportional to the force necessary to effectuate the arrests.
Samir Patel said during his review, “not only was law enforcement acting within the scope of their legal authority in their actions to obtain compliance, their actions were also largely consistent with the Atlanta Police Department’s own use of force policy.”
Young’s attorney has called a press conference for Tuesday after disagreeing with Patel’s findings. At the time, L. Chris Stewart, an attorney representing Pilgrim, said they intend to file a lawsuit, saying cities often don’t make changes until they have to start writing checks.
“We want change in policies, in procedures, in laws,” Stewart said. “It’s not hard to fix.”
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