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Attorney For Atlanta Officers Fired For ‘Excessive Force’ Says Case Lacked Due Process

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.
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.
Credit Atlanta Police Department via AP

Atlanta Attorney Lance LoRusso said he doesn’t want former Atlanta Police Department officers Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner’s case to be forgotten.

LoRusso told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam that he believes there was a lack of due process during the investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

“They refused to interview the officers,” LoRusso said. “The standard in American law is to interview a person who uses force. You have to get their perspective.”

Streeter and Gardner were fired shortly after a video surfaced on social media of both officers using a stun gun on Morehouse and Spelman College students Messiah Young and Teniyah Pilgrim. The men broke the vehicle’s windows and forcibly pulled the students from their car as they made their way through traffic during George Floyd protests in late May.

Both officers were fired because of accusations of using excessive force.

“Use of excessive force is never acceptable,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during a news conference.

But LoRusso said that videos circulating on social media are only showing snippets, editing out major sections of tape that redeem the officers’ actions that night.

Together, Streeter and Gardner have filed a lawsuit against the City of Atlanta and former Chief of Police Erika Shields.

In the lawsuit filed by Streeter and Gardner, both claim they were “involved in a use of force incident that arose within the scope and course of their duties.” The suit asks for a Fulton Superior Court judge to order that Streeter and Gardner be allowed to return to work, be given back pay, have their attorney fees and expenses covered, and be given due process made clear under city ordinances.

LoRusso said Streeter and Gardner were never interviewed by internal affairs prior to being fired.

“The city did not follow the notice provisions that are put in place to give time for those investigations,” LoRusso said. “They were literally told nothing.”

Howard issued arrest warrants for six officers, in total. Four of them were charged with aggravated assault.

LoRusso said he thinks there was a rush to charge and that it stemmed from political reasons, as Howard is running for re-election.

“There’s supposed to be a hearing that takes place, there’s supposed to be a sit-down,” he said. “There’s a give-and-take, there’s a hey, tell us your side of the story. Is there anything we missed? Is there anything that you want us to investigate?”

Shields didn’t ask specific questions to further investigate, according to LoRusso.

“They showed up. They were handed a letter, and they were told that they were terminated,” he said.

LoRusso also represents former Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe, who is charged with felony murder in the shooting death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s drive-thru. He said he prefers to wait to give “Morning Edition” an interview regarding that case, as Brooks is being laid to rest in a private Atlanta funeral.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.