Atlanta City Council Approves $2 Million Settlement for College Students Shocked with Tasers During George Floyd Protests

Atlanta City Council Approves $2 Million Settlement for College Students Shocked with Tasers During George Floyd Protests

The Atlanta City Council has approved a $2 million settlement for Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, two students who were pulled from their car and shocked with Tasers by police during the George Floyd protests.

Atlanta, Bollywood Fever: The Atlanta City Council has approved a $2 million settlement to two college students who were shocked with Tasers and forcibly removed from their car during downtown traffic caused by protests over George Floyd’s killing. The City Council voted 13-1 on Monday to settle the federal lawsuit filed by Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2021, argued that police had no justification for the actions taken against Young and Pilgrim, who were students at historically Black colleges in Atlanta at the time of the incident on May 30, 2020. The confrontation was captured on video, which quickly circulated online, adding to the outrage in a city already stirred by protests.

Atlanta City Council Approves $2 Million Settlement for College Students Shocked with Tasers During George Floyd Protests
AP Photo

Following the incident, then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and then-Police Chief Erika Shields announced that two officers had been fired and three others placed on desk duty. Then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard later announced arrest warrants for six officers involved. However, the dismissals of the two officers were overturned in February 2021 by the Atlanta Civil Service Board, and the charges against the six officers were dropped in May 2022 by a special prosecutor.

The resolution approved by the council clarified that the settlement should not be considered an admission of liability. Lawyers for Pilgrim and Young praised the city for agreeing to the 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.”

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

Police released dramatic body camera footage the night after the confrontation. The footage shows another young man pleading with officers as they take him into custody during a traffic jam in a downtown street. Young, seated in the driver’s seat of a stopped car, appears to be recording video with his phone when an officer approaches and yanks open the driver’s side door. Young closes the door and urges officers to release the other man.

The car driven by Young gets stuck in traffic, and officers run up to both sides of the vehicle, shouting orders. An officer uses a Taser on Pilgrim as she tries to exit the car, 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 breaks it. As the glass shatters, an officer uses a Taser on Young and officers pull him from the car, shouting, “Get your hand out of your pockets,” and, “He got a gun. He got a gun. He got a gun.” Once Young is 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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