Atlanta City Council approves settlement of $2M for students pulled from car during 2020 protests


ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta City Council has approved the payment of a settlement of $2 million to two college students who were shocked with Tasers and pulled from a car while they were stuck in downtown traffic caused by protests over George Floyd’s killing.

The City Council on Monday voted 13-1 to approve the payment to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim. The lawsuit filed in June 2021 argued that police had no justification for pulling the two students from their car and shocking them.

Young and Pilgrim were students at historically Black colleges in Atlanta on May 30, 2020, when police confronted them. Video of the confrontation quickly circulated online adding to outrage in a city already roiled by protests.

Then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and then-Police Chief Erika Shields announced the next day that two officers had been fired and three others placed on desk duty. Then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard a few days later announced that arrest warrants had been obtained for six officers.

The dismissals of the two officers were overturned in February 2021 after the Atlanta Civil Service Board found the city did not follow its own personnel procedures. And the charges against the six officers were dropped in May 2022 by a special prosecutor assigned to the case.

The resolution approved by the council Monday says any settlement is not to be considered an admission of liability.

Lawyers for Pilgrim and Young applauded the city for agreeing to settlement.

“This traumatic incident has left a permanent mental and emotional scar on both of these young adults,” Pilgrim’s lawyers, Dianna Lee, L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, said in a statement. “This case has been a roller coaster of emotions for two innocent college students who were the victims of unjustifiable excessive force by officers of the APD.”

“The resolution of the civil case will allow these young people and their families to continue healing from this traumatic experience,” attorney Mawuli Davis, a lawyer for Young said, adding, “It is important for them to help the community to remember that the fight to prevent police brutality continues.”

Police released dramatic body camera the night after the confrontation.

It shows another young man saying he didn’t do anything and pleading with officers to let him go as they take him into custody in the midst of a traffic jam in a downtown street.

Young, seated in the driver’s seat of a car stopped in the street, appears to be shooting video with his phone as an officer approaches and yanks open the driver’s side door. Young pulls the door closed and urges officers to release the other man and let him get in the car.

The car driven by Young gets stuck in traffic and officers run up to both sides of the car shouting orders. An officer uses a Taser on Pilgrim as she tries to exit the car and then officers pull her from the vehicle.

Another officer yells at Young to put the car in park and open the window. An officer repeatedly hits the driver’s side window with a baton, and another finally manages to break it.

As the glass shatters, an officer uses a Taser on Young and officers pull him from the car, some shouting, “Get your hand out of your pockets,” and, “He got a gun. He got a gun. He got a gun.” Once Young’s out of the car and on the ground, officers zip tie his hands behind his back and lead him away.

Police reports did not list a gun as having been recovered.



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