Atlanta committee slated to vote on $2 million settlement for 2020 arrest of 2 college students

Taniyah Pilgrim holds Messiah Young’s bandaged hand as he speaks during a news conference on the campus of Morehouse College on Monday, June 1, 2020, in Atlanta. The two former HBCU students, who were tased by Atlanta police officers in 2020, could receive a $2 million settlement from the Atlanta City Council based on the board's vote on Monday.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

The Atlanta Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee could vote on Monday, June 24, to approve a $2 million settlement with two students at historically Black colleges who were tased by Atlanta police officers four years ago.

Attorneys for Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young filed the civil lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia on June 17, 2021, according to online court records.

That was a day after former Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Samir Patel announced he dropped the charges for six Atlanta police officers who had been fired from the police department and accused of battery and aggravated assault against Pilgrim and Young.

Patel was tapped to prosecute the case after Fulton County’s district attorney recused herself.

Two investigators who were initially placed on administrative leave were later reinstated and given the opportunity to collect back pay.

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.

Video footage released by the Atlanta Police Department shows the officers confronting Pilgrim and Young in their car 45 minutes after the city’s 9 p.m. curfew.

The pair have said they didn’t know the curfew had been put in place and that they were just trying to get home after a protest at Centennial Olympic Park over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

In the video, Pilgrim and Young appear to briefly drive away from the officers before coming to a stop. Officers then snatch, tase and arrest both occupants while Pilgrim screams for them to stop. Young told CNN that one taser was left in his back for hours.

At the time, Pilgrim and Young were students at Spelman College and Morehouse College. They were 20 and 22 years old, respectively.

The 46-page lawsuit says the excessive use of force from the officers had a lasting impact on their mental, physical and emotional health.

Pilgrim and Young were seeking a jury trial and compensation that would help cover the costs of their legal fees. However, the issue could be one step closer to being put to rest this week.

“The city attorney has done an extensive review of the facts and the law and has determined that the city’s potential financial exposure in defending plaintiffs’ claim is in excess of the settlement amount,” Monday’s resolution states.

If approved, Pilgrim and Young will each be awarded $1 million. The money will be paid out from the city’s general fund.

The Atlanta City Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution at their July 1 meeting.