Following their termination, two Atlanta Police Department officers were reinstated on Monday after tasing and violently arresting two historically Black college students during a viral arrest at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the city’s Civil Service Board declared protocol was not followed in firing officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who were let go on May 31, one day following the release of the viral video.
Of the six officers involved in the brutal confrontation Gardner and Streeter were the only two who were terminated. The other four were placed on desk duty.
Spelman College student Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, and her boyfriend Morehouse College student Messiah Young, 22, were participants in a Black Lives Matter protest when officers ordered them to exit a heavily trafficked area in their vehicle. Police claimed the two failed to exit the premises even though the road was blocked with traffic, and also stated they thought they were armed. They were forcefully pulled from the car, tased and sustained injuries from the arrest. No weapons were found at the scene.
Lance LoRusso, a lawyer for the officers said city and department officials rushed to act, declining the officers the opportunity to take five days to respond to the allegations against them, which is protocol.
Gardner and Streeter were dismissed from the force coinciding with a press conference where Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced their termination. LoRusso claims the press conference was reportedly held on the same day as the deadline for the officers’ response.
“The city just trampled over their rights,” he said.
Gardner and Streeter, who have a combined 39 years of experience on the force are now eligible to return to work, but could face an internal investigation that was avoided due to their swift termination.
The alarming incident went viral in the midst of several high-profile deaths of Black community members, including the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery.
Days after the tasing incident, Rayshard Brooks, another Black man was shot by police after he was found sleeping in a Wendy’s drive-through. In the aftermath of these back-to-back events Erika Shields resigned from her post as Atlanta Police Department Police Chief. However she now heads the Louisville Metro Police Department, the same jurisdiction involved in the Breonna Taylor murder.
Gardner and Streeter were among six officers who faced disciplinary action over the incident. Former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard charged the group with aggravated assault, simple battery and other charges.
Last week the newly elected District Attorney Fani Willis announced she would pass on prosecuting the case, leaving it in the hands of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to either drop the case, find another prosecutor or assign the case to a prosecutor in his office.
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