Independent review finds officers used appropriate force against college students in viral video

Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Samir Patel, as District Attorney Pro Tempore for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, announced today that his office has completed a thorough and independent review of the facts in the matter of State of Georgia v. Ivory Streeter, Lonnie Hood, Mark Gardner, Ronald Claud, Willie Sauls, and Armond Jones

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to conduct an independent criminal investigation on August 9, 2021.

Two of the Atlanta police officers, Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter were fired after a video of the incident went viral.

Below is Patel’s report that was released to the press on May 23, 2022. It is presented in its entirety.

On May 30, 2020, Mr. Messiah Young and Ms. Taniyah Pilgrim violated the curfew and were approached by law enforcement at 9:44 p.m.  The evidence in this case shows that the involved officers’ use of force was the direct result of Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim’s resistance to and noncompliance with the officers’ instructions.  The facts indicate that that the officers’ actions were taken in response to Mr. Young’s and Ms. Pilgrim’s active resistance to the officers’ directives.  It is also clear from the evidence that the use of the Taser, and indeed any force used by the officers ended immediately once Mr. Young and Ms. Pilgrim were subdued.  The actions of the officers were proportional to the force necessary to effectuate the arrests. 

Not only was law enforcement acting within the scope of their legal authority in their actions to obtain compliance, their actions were also largely consistent with the Atlanta Police Department’s own use of force policy.

The video that was widely distributed through media in the days following May 30, 2020, was not an accurate portrayal of the entire encounter between Mr. Young, Ms. Pilgrim, and law enforcement.

For the reasons provided in the Declination of Prosecution and Dismissal of Warrants filed in conjunction with this release, the affidavits of arrest issued by former District Attorney Paul Howard on June 2, 2020, are dismissed.

The decision before my office is to determine if a criminal offense was committed and to follow the rule of law. According to Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct 3.8 and Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8, comment. 1 (1983), the State has an ethical responsibility to pursue prosecution only in cases that are supported by probable cause. In this matter, the State is unable to find probable cause to prosecute the officers involved for a crime under Georgia law. I wholeheartedly believe that Georgia has made significant progress in improving how our communities and police work together and we must continue that positive path, always guided by the rule of law.

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