Officers fired for tasing college students had just finished de-escalation training, records show

ATLANTA — Two Atlanta police officers have been fired for using a stun gun on two college students during this weekend’s protests in Atlanta.

A video of officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter using the stun gun on the students as they sat in a vehicle led to action by Atlanta’s mayor and police chief. The Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he’s investigating and looking at criminal charges against the officers.

Still shaken, the Morehouse and Spelman students spoke for the first time Monday about what happened Saturday night.

“We felt like we were going to die in that car,” said Taniyah Pilgrim, a student at Spelman College.

The Atlanta Police Department provided WSB-TV with body camera video from seven different officers showing Messiah Young, a senior from Morehouse College, and Pilgrim, his girlfriend, tased and dragged from their car.

“I’m sorry you guys had to even see something like that occur. It’s disgusting,” Pilgrim said Monday.

Moments before they were tased, the video shows Young taking a video of the police and protesters from his car.

The couple said they were not part of the protests, but were going out to eat and got stuck in the traffic.

“At the end of the day, it’s a blessing that I’m alive and here to talk with you,” Young said.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Ericka Shields said the videos left them no choice but to terminate officers Streeter and Gardner.

“I knew that I had only one option, and that was to terminate the employees,” Shields said.

WSB-TV dug into the history of the two men. Both were longtime veterans of the force and investigators in APD's fugitive unit.

Both men, according to state peace officer records, had just gone through use-of-force and de-escalation training in the last two months.

Streeter completed his de-escalation training just last week.

Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told WSB-TV that he thinks the officers should have been placed on leave while they were investigated.

“We just don’t know the facts. Making an arrest on video as a police officer, almost all of them are going to be ugly,” Champion said.

Young has a fractured arm and 20 stitches from the incident. He also spent the night in jail.

The couple and their attorneys want more disciplinary action taken against the officers involved.

“This is a long, long fight. This isn’t just about me. This is an entire generation that has to deal with brutality and injustice and wrongdoing for nothing because of the color of their skin,” Young said.

WSB-TV remained in contact with Howard's office throughout Monday. Howard was said to be speaking with the families, the police chief, and then will make a determination on any possible criminal charges against the officers.

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