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2 Atlanta Officers Fired After Video Shows Them Assaulting Morehouse and Spelmen Students, Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim

"It was the worst experience of my life."

Two Atlanta Police Department officers were fired Sunday after video showed them using “excessive force” against two college students, Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, and Messiah Young.

What We Know:

  • Recent Morehouse and Spelman College graduates, Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, were simply trying to get home after being notified of the curfew. That’s when they were stopped by Atlanta Police. Their tires were slashed, and in the video, you can see the police smashing the window and tasing Young and Pilgrim.
  • Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said she recognized the two as Spelman College and Morehouse College students. Both schools are historically black colleges in Atlanta.
  • “It was the worst experience of my life,” said Pilgrim. She said she and her friend Messiah Young, the man in the video, were riding home from protests when the incident took place.
  • Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was disturbed when she saw the video and ordered charges to be dropped against the man. The woman was not charged.
  • “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.”
  • One of the officers wrote in a police report that he used his taser because he was unsure whether Pilgrim or Young were 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.”
  • Spelman College SGA stood in solidarity with Young and Pilgrim.

  • A friend of the two, Samaiya Butler, quickly organized a GoFundMe in response to her friends being assaulted by police officers. Within hours, the fundraiser had garnered over $35,000 in donations, exceeding the $5,000 goal.

The incident is just the latest in a string of filmed interactions between African Americans and police that at times turn deadly, as in the case of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protests have erupted across the country as a result of Floyd’s death, which has caused major cities to implement curfews and call on the National Guard for assistance.

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Jakiyah Haywood is an Digital Intern at UnmutedCo.

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