Two Atlanta police officers who were fired after a widely publicized incident involving two college students are suing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields for reinstatement of their jobs.
Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner filed a lawsuit in Fulton County’s Superior Court on June 8. In the suit, the pair claim they were denied due process and unfairly terminated.
The incident occurred on May 30 in downtown Atlanta. Streeter, Gardner and four other officers approached a car driven by 22-year-old Messiah Young to enforce the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. The officers broke the car windows and deployed tasers before the pair were removed from the car. Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, was tased before officers opened the door and pulled out of the passenger seat. Young was also tased several times. As his eyes rolled back and his body convulsed, his door was also opened and he snatched out of the vehicle.
Pilgrim later said she and Young feared for their lives.
“We felt like we were going to die in that car,” the Spelman student said at a June 1 press conference.
Young was left with a fractured arm and a wound that required 20 stitches.
“This has truly been one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my life,” the Morehouse College student told reporters.
Both were arrested but the charges were eventually dropped. Gardner and Streeter were fired a day after the incident.
“After review of that footage, Chief [Erika] Shields and I have made the determination that two of the officers involved in the incident last night will be terminated immediately,” Bottoms said in a news conference on May 31.
Four other officers were placed on desk duty or administrative leave while the confrontation was being investigated. This is a source of contention for Gardner and Streeter, according to court documents obtained by CBS46.
“The other four police officers who were involved in the incident were engaged in substantially similar conduct, which was also alleged to be improper, but have not been dismissed and are, by information and belief, either on paid leave or have been assigned to non-enforcement duties,” the suit states.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced he was pursuing charges again all the officers involved on June 2. Shields later called the move “political” in a memo to her staff.
The papers argued Gardner and Streeter’s use of force was “was proper and in compliance” with Atlanta Police policy and state laws. The suit added the duo was “summarily dismissed from their employment by Petitioner Shields, without an investigation, without proper notice, without pre—disciplinary hearing, and in direct violation of the municipal code of the City of Atlanta.”
The lawsuit states the pair have “suffered irreparable injury to their personal and professional reputations as result of their unlawful dismissal. As result of the unlawful action of the Respondent, the Petitioners have become public spectacles and objects of ridicule. Their unlawful termination was unnecessarily public and has attracted national media attention.”
Gardner and Streeter are seeking reinstatement and back pay.