Atlanta — Six police officers were booked on felony charges.
According to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, the police officers allegedly used excessive force during a mass protest last Saturday. They have been released on signature bonds.
In a video recording, the officers can be seen breaking the car window, tasing a man and pulling a woman out of the vehicle. The two victims in the video were identified as students of two historically black colleges, Spelman and Morehouse.
The students just attended a mass protest of police brutality against Black citizens which are widely taking place in the US.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields expressed concern about the charges in an internal memo and wrote that she did not expect them.
Criminal charges “were never part of any discussion that I had with the Mayor or her administration,” Shields indicated in the memo. Shields said she found out about them from “a fellow employee.”
“I called the DA and strongly expressed my concern, both to the appropriateness and the timing of any charges,” Shields wrote. “The officers were fired because I felt that is what had to occur,” she added.
In a statement released to CNN, Vince Champion, the Southeast Regional Director of International Brotherhood of Police Officers expressed concern about how fast the officers were charged and fired.
“We definitely believe they’re premature charges,” Champion said. “We are asking the same thing that we ask, that everybody asks, for citizens,”
“They have time to have investigations. They were given no due process.”
The charges against the six officers were announced by District Attorney Paul Howard on Tuesday. Charges include aggravated assault of Messiah Young, aggravated assault of Taniyah Pilgrim, criminal damage to property, and simple battery.
Two of the officers, Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, were dismissed on Sunday by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “As we watch the video today, it became abundantly clear immediately with the young woman that this force was excessive,” Bottoms said.
“It also became abundantly clear that the officer who tased the young man needed to be terminated as well.”
Based on a police report, one of the officers said that he used his taser because he was uncertain whether Young or Pilgrim was armed. “I heard officers say gun two-three times,” the officer wrote. “Not being able to see the hands of the passenger and being that she was in my immediate sight I deployed my city-issued taser to defuse the situation.”
Pilgrim, 20 years old, said that she and Young were riding home from attending protests when the incident happened.
“I thought I might be killed,” Pilgrim said in a CNN interview.
“Nothing really warranted it … After I realized none of this really had a reason, I was just thinking, OK, this is the end.”
Young said that his wrist is injured and he has about 20 stitches in his forearm along with bruises all over his ribs.
In Shield’s memo, the police chief said she spent about four hours watching all the available videos of the incident.
“The more I watched and the more I listened it was apparent we were in the wrong,” Shields wrote. “We gave conflicting instructions; we didn’t allow the driver or passenger a chance to respond — we created chaos and we escalated a low-level encounter into space where we introduced violence.”