In this Saturday, May 30, 2020, photo taken from police body camera video released by the Atlanta Police Department, an officer points his handgun at Messiah Young while the college student is seated in his vehicle, in Atlanta. The following day, Atlanta's mayor two police officers were fired and three others placed on desk duty over excessive use of force during the arrest of Young and fellow college student Taniyah Pilgrim, seated in the passenger side of the car.
Photo: Atlanta Police Department via AP
Photo: Atlanta Police Department via AP

‘We felt we were going to die’; students arrested by APD speak out

They were stuck in traffic, a young couple looking to grab a bite to eat on a Saturday night.

Their date was interrupted by a group of Atlanta police officers, who confronted Messiah Young, a Morehouse College senior, and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Taniyah Pilgrim, at Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Andrew Young International Boulevard.

RELATED: Police body camera footage reveals details of confrontation

“We felt like we were going to die in that car,” Pilgrim, a psychology major at Spelman College, told reporters Monday.

They still don’t know why now-former APD investigators Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter acted so aggressively. Using a billy club, one of the officers smashed the driver’s side window. The couple were Tased and thrown to the ground for no apparent cause.

Young suffered a fractured arm and a cut that required 20 stitches. 

He spent the night in jail. Pilgrim spent hours in the back of a paddywagon before she was released without explanation or apology. 

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Atlanta protests

“You got the wrong ones this time,” said Young’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, adding his client has never been arrested and, contrary to previous reports, did not have a gun in his car.

Davis said he believes Young, 22, was targeted because he was using his cell phone video to capture the chaos unfolding on the streets of Atlanta.

Young, quiet and physically unassuming, still appeared a bit shellshocked some 42 hours after the incident occurred. 

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

“This has truly been one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my life,” he said. 

Gardner and Streeter were fired Sunday; three other officers on the scene were reassigned to desk duty and remain under investigation.

Pilgrim said one of those three officers told her, “He was going to shoot us.” She identified him as Officer A. Jones.

Return for updates.

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