City of Atlanta approves $2 million settlement for students tased by police during George Floyd protest

The Atlanta City Council voted Monday to approve a $2 million settlement for two students forcibly pulled from their car and tased by police during a protest following the death of George Floyd.

Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim will each receive $1 million as part of the settlement.

“The resolution of the civil case will allow these young people and their families to continue healing from this traumatic experience. It is important for them to help the community to remember that the fight to prevent police brutality continues,” Mawuli Davis, Young’s lawyer, told CNN.

“This case has been a roller coaster of emotions for two innocent college students who were the victims of unjustifiable excessive force by officers of the APD (Atlanta Police Department). We pray this acts as a sign of change that the City will continue to step forward and do the right thing in civil rights cases,” Pilgrim’s legal team said in a statement.

Pilgrim and Young were in their vehicle in downtown Atlanta on May 30, 2020, when they were caught in traffic by protests sparked by George Floyd’s death days before.

The lawsuit claimed that while the students’ car was stopped due to heavy traffic, they were approached by six Atlanta Police Department officers and told to open the door and get out of the vehicle. As Pilgrim turned to get out of the car, she was tased twice while still in the passenger’s seat, according to the lawsuit.

An officer then broke the window on Young’s side and Young was also tased twice, while he was in the driver’s seat, the lawsuit added.

The incident was captured on video by bystanders and shared widely online.

Body camera footage from the night in May 2020 shows officers pulling Pilgrim and Young out of the car after being tased. - Atlanta Police Department
Body camera footage from the night in May 2020 shows officers pulling Pilgrim and Young out of the car after being tased. - Atlanta Police Department

The students said they were out picking up food when they encountered the protests. Then Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had called a citywide curfew to start at 9 p.m., but the students said in the lawsuit they were unaware of it. The incident happened around 9:40 p.m. that night, the lawsuit said.

Young was charged with eluding police but the charges were dropped the next day. Pilgrim was never charged, according to the lawsuit.

The students filed their lawsuit a year later in 2021, seeking unspecified damages and naming several individual officers, the city of Atlanta and Bottoms.

CNN previously reported that four of the six Atlanta Police officers were fired. They were all booked on charges of aggravated assault, simple battery and criminal damage to property in the aftermath of the incident. Two of them had their terminations overturned and returned to the force.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office didn’t prosecute the officers involved in the incident, deciding their actions were justified.

Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Pilgrim, said Tuesday there are no outstanding lawsuits.

“Thank you for everyone that has supported us over the years. There’s a lot of work to be done,” Young said during a news conference Tuesday. “There’s still blood on the streets of Atlanta. The idea of justice that was once lauded unfortunately crumbled to dust. We will keep pushing forward.”

“This situation occurred four years ago and it’s a memory that I’ve been wanting to forget. Unfortunately, it is etched into our memory. I’m happy that this finally settled and I can close this chapter in my life,” Pilgrim added.

CNN’s Tina Burnside and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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