ATLANTA — Two police officers, fired following the controversial tasing of two college students during the early days of summer protests in Atlanta, have had their dismissals overturned.
It comes after a review by the City Civil Service Board found that the dismissals violated both Atlanta Police and city policy when it comes to terminating employees, according to documents obtained by 11Alive.
Atlanta Police officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter were fired from the department in May, after video showed officers tasing college students Taniya Pilgrim and Messiah Young and pulling them from the car, sparking outrage. The two said they were simply trying to drive away, after asking police why one of their friends was arrested.
Meanwhile, the officers - who appealed their terminations - said they were acting off information that there was a gun in the pair's car, after an officer yelled there was one. They said they used the tasers in self-defense because they were in fear for their lives. No gun was ever found in the car.
During a hearing with the board, former APD Chief Erika Shields said the two officers were fired because of exceptional circumstances.
"You cannot find where we were in an environment previously," said described in the hearing. "We did, I did what I had to do to ensure that that city was stabilized."
However, documents from the board said that the department failed to give sufficient written notice to the officers and failed to allow them proper representation.
"Based upon the serious concerns of insufficient adherence to City code and procedures which culminated into a lack of due process, the Board upholds the Appeal of Ivory Streeter and revokes the City’s dismissal of him from APD employment," the review from the board said of Streeter's case. It held a similar stance for Gardner's case.
At this time, the LoRusso law firm is not releasing a statement regarding the terminations of their clients - Gardner and Streeter - being overturned.
Meanwhile, Streeter and Gardner were also criminally charged with aggravated assault. The criminal case was transferred from the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to the Georgia Attorney General last week.
In a statement, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a statement about the CSB's decision, writing that, "while the Civil Service Board (CSB) has reversed the termination of the officers, given the unrest across our city and nation at the time, and the disturbing video footage before us, I still believe that the right decision was made," she said. "It is also important to note that the CSB did not say that the officers' conduct was lawful."
The Atlanta Police echoed that stance, adding that "in light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed," the department said.
They also noted that because Gardner and Streeter have criminal charges related to the incident, they will remain on administrative leave until those charges are resolved.
Mayor Bottoms also noted that the situation, and others, "resulted in changes to our use-of-force policy, including de-escalation training and guidance on when and how to intervene in specific situations," she said.
"It is my sincere hope that these policy changes and additional training for our officers will help eliminate the potentially life-threatening and deadly encounters that have happened in the past," she added.
However, Mawuli Davis, the attorney for college student Young and his family, released a statement saying they were "stunned and saddened" to learn through the media that the terminations were overturned. Davis added they learned the cases were being turned over to the state AG's office through the media as well.
"In two consecutive weeks they have experienced the pain of the justice system continuing to fail them as victims of police brutality," part of the statement reads. "The family is grateful for those who continue to organize and protest to change a system that remains unjust where “Black Lives” are concerned. They will not stop demanding justice for Messiah, Taniyah and all of the victims of police violence."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include statements from the Mayor, the Atlanta Police Department, and the attorney for the college student.