A group of six Atlanta police officers will face charges after they allegedly attacked two African-American college students driving in their car during George Floyd protests in the US.
The District lawyer of Fulton County Paul Howard has said he’ll look to jail the officers for several years if convicted over Saturday’s incident which was filmed by bystanders and caught on the officer’s own body cameras.
The group of officers surrounded the couple’s car and smashed in their windows before they allegedly tasered the pair and dragged them from their vehicle, according to the footage. The pair, Messiah Young, 22, and his girlfriend, Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, both appear to be tasered again on the ground, after being removed from the car and cuffed.
Police had been patrolling the city as protests, sparked by the killing of African-American man George Floyd by a white police officer, continued across the country. In Atlanta on Saturday, demonstrations had turned violent and chaotic in some areas.
In the police report of the incident, officers said they’d believed the couple were holding a gun – however investigators have rejected these claims, saying there’s no indication from the body cam this was the case.
“The conduct involved in this incident – it is not indicative of the way that we treat people in the city of Atlanta,” Mr Howard told a briefing, which Mr Young and Ms Pilgrim were present at.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on Sunday that she and the city’s police chief had earlier decided to fire two of the officers after reviewing body-camera footage of the incident.
The Atlanta Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the charges, which range from aggravated assault to criminal damage to Mr Pilgrim’s car, according to Reuters.
“This just needs to cease,” said Mr Young, who is a senior at Morehouse College. He suffered a fractured wrist during the incident.
“Moving forward, we just need to make sure that all officers are held accountable.”
“I just thought me and Messiah were going to die,” Ms Pilgrim said in a news conference.
“The way everything happened so fast – there was no telling what could happen in the next moment.”
However, Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said none of the officers had yet been interviewed and there had not been a thorough investigation of the incident.
“Why were the students stopped? We don’t know the answer to that,” he said.