Fired APD officer had previous excessive force complaints

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms apologized Sunday for what she said was clearly excessive force used by Atlanta Police in the arrest of two young African Americans during the city’s curfew crackdown Saturday night after protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected and updated to reflect that an excessive force complaint lodged against Officer Mark Gardner in 2015 was not upheld. An earlier version of the story was based on APD records that the department now says are inaccurate.

One of the Atlanta Police Department officers fired Sunday for forcibly arresting two college students had a previous complaint of excessive force that was not upheld after an internal review, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Mark Gardner, who joined APD in 1997, was the subject of two citizen complaints five years ago from Richard Williams. One was for "maltreatment or unnecessary force" and the other was for violation of the department's policy on personal weapons.

The allegation of unnecessary use of force was ruled not sustained, and Gardner received a written reprimand on the personal weapons violation, according to a disciplinary history APD released Monday.

Gardner and Ivory Streeter, the other officer fired Sunday, were investigators with the department’s fugitive squad, APD spokesman Carlos Campos said.

RELATED: Two Atlanta officers fired for using excessive force, mayor says

Streeter, with APD since 2003, had just completed a class on “de-escalation” tactics, according to records kept by the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

He also completed a 6-hour course on use of force on May 7. Gardner took a 2-hour de-escalation class and a 3-hour class on use of force in late March 28, POST records show.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she ordered the dismissal of the officers after reviewing body camera footage with Police Chief Erika Shields. Three other APD officers on the scene have been reassigned to desk duty and are under investigation for their roles in the arrests of Spelman College student Teniyah Pilgrim, 20, and former Morehouse College student Messiah Young, 22.

The students were driving near downtown Atlanta when they were ordered out the vehicle. Body camera footage shared by Atlanta police late Sunday shows an officer trying to remove the driver from the vehicle, which is stopped in the middle of the street at the intersection of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Andrew Young International Boulevard.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office is “moving rapidly to reach an appropriate charging decision” regarding the officers’ conduct.

Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said the officers’ deserved a more thorough investigation.

“We don’t know why that car was stopped,” Champion said. “Until we know what happened, we don’t know if the officers did anything wrong or not.”

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