LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Two officers fired by Police Chief Erika Shields over Atlanta tasing are reinstated


Two Atlanta police officers who were fired by Louisville police Chief Erika Shields when she led that city's department have been reinstated to their jobs.

Officers Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner were fired after Atlanta police were shown on video pulling college students from a car and using a Taser on them during a large protest last May against police brutality and racial injustice, sparking national outrage.

They and four other officers were eventually criminally charged for their involvement. Streeter, Gardner and two other officers were fired.

Streeter and Gardner were notified ay 31 they would be fired, effective the next day, according to The Associated Press.

The Civil Service Board in Atlanta found that in firing Streeter and Gardner, the city did not follow its own personnel procedures, which resulted in the officers being deprived of due process because they were not given proper notification or adequate opportunity to respond, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The board, which is made up of five residents recommended by the mayor and confirmed by the city council, ordered Monday that their dismissals be revoked.

Generally, an employee should be given 10 days between the notice of proposed adverse action, such as a firing, and its effective date, the Civil Service Board said in its order. An adverse action can become effective immediately in an emergency situation, but the board found the city did not follow its own guidelines for an emergency situation.

Officers confronted Messiah Young and Taniyah Pilgrim, rising seniors at historically Black colleges in Atlanta, as they were stuck in traffic after a curfew declared by the mayor May 30 during protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Police body camera footage shows officers shouting at the couple, firing Tasers at them and dragging them from the car. Throughout the confrontation, the pair can be heard screaming and asking what they did wrong.

Video of the confrontation was shared widely online, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Shields decided the two officers had used excessive force and must be fired immediately.

In an email to the department after then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced that Streeter and Gardner would be criminally charged, Shields defended the firing of the longtime officers but questioned the timing and appropriateness of the charges.

Shields, who stepped down as police chief about two weeks after the incident, told the board that extraordinary circumstances resulted in the decision to fire Streeter and Gardner.

"The circumstances were exceptional," Shields testified according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We did, I did, what I had to do to make sure the city was stabilized."

Shields' hiring as police chief in Louisville was announced in early January, drawing criticism because of what had transpired in Atlanta, including the police shooting of a Black man after at altercation in a Wendy's parking lot.

Although Streeter and Gardner will be reinstated, they also still face criminal charges.

Streeter was charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Young and with pointing a gun at him, arrest warrants say. Gardner was charged with aggravated assault for using a Taser against Pilgrim, a warrant says.

Bottoms on Tuesday noted that the Civil Service Board did not say the officers' conduct was lawful.

"(G)iven 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 in an emailed statement.

Attorney L. Chris Stewart, who represents Pilgrim, told the Journal-Constitution he was disappointed by the idea of Streeter and Gardner returning to work.

"The video speaks for itself," he said.

Attorney Mawuli Davis, who represents Young, said his client was "stunned and saddened" to learn that the officers' firings had been reversed.

Lance LoRusso, a lawyer for the officers, told the newspaper the firings resulted from a rush to judgment and said his clients are eager to return to work.

Bottoms said this incident and others led to changes in the city's use-of-force policy, "including de-escalation training and guidance on when and how to intervene in specific situations."

"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," the mayor said.