Two Atlanta police officers who were fired after using their tasers on two college students who were stuck in traffic during recent protests have filed a lawsuit demanding their jobs back.
Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner claim they were terminated without an investigation and that their use of force in the May 30 incident was not illegal, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
They have named Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the suit, which was filed in Fulton County State Court.
Streeter and Gardner attempted to stop Spelman College student Taniyah Pilgrim, 20, and Morehouse College student Messiah Young, 22, who were in their vehicle after a 9 p.m. curfew. Body camera footage shows one of the officers attempting to remove Young, which fractured his arm. Both of them were thrown to the ground and tasered by the officers.
“I don’t want to die is what kept going through my mind,” Young, 22, told BET.com in an interview last week. “Every time I close my eyes, I’m literally remembering and being pulled back into the moment. I literally try to just erase it."
The day after the confrontation (May 31), Bottoms fired both officers and on June 2, criminal charges were announced against all six officers who were at the scene.
But Shields balked at the charges, calling them a “political” move by the Fulton County district attorney, the AJC reported.
“We created chaos and we escalated a low-level encounter into a space where we introduced violence,” Shields reportedly wrote in a staff memo. “Once this occurs, we need to own it.”
The officers involved are all charged with aggravated assault, which in this case refers to a taser being used as a deadly weapon. But their defense attorney Lance LoRusso told Atlanta station WSB-TV that their action does not fit the legal definition of the crime.
“As a matter of law, a Taser is not a deadly weapon. It’s not listed as a deadly weapon in any state in the United States,” said Lorusso. “I’ve been exposed to a Taser. I’m still here. I shot people with a Taser in training. They’re still here. It would turn American law enforcement on its ear if we’re going to label a Taser as a deadly weapon.”
Photo credit: @imactuallynina, CNN