Two HBCU students who were pulled out of their car and tased by Atlanta police last May are suing the city. Included in the lawsuit filed by Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young are Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the nine officers involved in their violent arrest.
Taniyah Pilgrim said she’s still in pain — both physically and emotionally — after she and another Atlanta college student were tased and arrested by a group of police officers in Atlanta last summer.
“The anxiety that night brings me every day — the nightmares that I still have to experience every single night — it’s like life took a total turn, for something that we didn’t ask to be involved with,” she said.
For Messiah Young, the pain seems to manifest in a different way. He spoke softly Thursday as he reflected on the incident that resulted in him being in handcuffs while an officer pointed a gun at him.
“I know the pain that they go through and continue to go through, and accountability is what relieves pain and brings peace,” said attorney Mawuli Davis, who is representing Young. “And unfortunately, there has been no accountability.”
The demand for accountability, Davis said, is what has driven Pilgrim and Young to file a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta. The 21- and 23-year-old announced the lawsuit Thursday morning during a news conference with their legal teams.
Named in the suit alongside the city of Atlanta are Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the individual officers involved in the arrest, including Ivory Streeter, Mark Gardner, Lonnie Hood, Armond Jones, Willie T. Sauls and Ronald Claud.
Davis said the city has failed to take responsibility for the impact the encounter had on the two college students: chronic physical pain that Pilgrim said she now has to tend to regularly, a laceration that required nearly 20 stitches for Young, and anxiety and emotional scars borne by them both.
The lawsuit also includes Atlanta Police Department officers Carlos Smith, Steven McKesey, Sheldon Drinkard and 10 anonymous officers deemed “John Doe Officers” who according to documents were nearby while the other officers deployed their Tasers and “despite being in a position to intervene, chose to stand by and watch without making any effort to stop the obvious use of excessive force.”
Six of the Atlanta police officers were fired and charged following the incident, which Bottoms then called a clear use of excessive force. Two have since had their terminations overturned.
The officers need to be held accountable for their actions and the victims deserve compensation.