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Fired Atlanta police officers file suit

Two police officers who were fired by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are now firing back with a lawsuit against the Atlanta mayor and Police Chief Erika Shields for wrongful termination.

The mayor announced May 31 that Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner, both veteran police investigators, used “excessive force” in arresting two college students. After consultation with the police chief, the mayor announced the termination of both officers.

The arrest of the college students, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim, and 22-year-old Messiah Young, occurred on the evening of Saturday, May 30. That was the first day of a 9:00 pm curfew imposed by Mayor Lance Bottoms following protests that turned to riots the evening before in response to the killing of George Floyd.

The complaint filed in Fulton County Superior Court states in part:

“On May 31, 2020, the Petitioners were summarily dismissed from their employment by [Respondent] Shields, without an investigation, without proper notice, without pre-disciplinary hearing, and in direct violation of the municipal code of the City of Atlanta. Contrary to city policy as well as the policies, procedures, customs, and practices of the City of Atlanta Police Department, Petitioners were never interviewed by the Office of Professional Standards or any individual regarding this incident to provide their statements.”

The officers are asking the court to compel the mayor and police chief to reinstate the officers with backpay and other damages.

The arrest of the college students received nationwide news coverage with body camera video showing what appears to be excessive use of force, including tasers, to subdue Pilgrim and Young. That part of the video has been shown widely since it was released to the press on May 30. However, a video that has been rarely seen shows officers attempting to stop the vehicle driven by Young, repeatedly ordering the driver to stop. At one point, one of the officers opened the driver’s car door in an apparent attempt to force Young to stop the vehicle. Instead, Young accelerated, appearing to try and evade the police. The officer, with his hand on the door, was dragged off-balance until he released his hold on the vehicle. Moments later, Officers Streeter and Gardner, plus several other officers, caught up to the fleeing vehicle and apprehended Young and Pilgrim.

Attorney for the two officers, Lance LoRusso, told American Wire in an exclusive interview that the driver and passenger, Young and Pilgrim, “were in clear violation of the law” and had “violated the curfew.”

LoRusso also said that there seemed to be a political motive behind the firings based on “the public manner in which they were terminated…with no due process.” LoRusso pointed to the officers’ excellent performance record over a long period of time. Streeter had been with Atlanta Police since 2003 and Gardner since 1997.

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