Messiah Young and Teniyah Pilgrim address the media Monday night alongside their families and their attorneys, Mawuli Davis and L. Chris Stewart.
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Messiah Young and Teniyah Pilgrim address the media Monday night alongside their families and their attorneys, Mawuli Davis and L. Chris Stewart.

An arrest in downtown Atlanta Saturday night sent shock waves through Georgia and the nation, sparked by local news and police body-worn camera footage.

Two local college students, Messiah Young and Teniyah Pilgrim, were pulled over by the Atlanta Police Department as police began enforcing a 9 p.m. curfew across the city. Moments later, officers stunned Young and Pilgrim. Their car windows were broken and tires slashed.

"These children have been traumatized," Attorney Mawuli Davis said Monday during a press conference.

Pilgrim was released later by police without charges.

Young and Pilgrim addressed the media Monday night alongside their attorneys, Davis and L. Chris Stewart, outside of Morehouse College, where Young is a rising senior. Stewart is also representing families in both the Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd cases.

MORE: Atlanta Attorney In Ahmaud Arbery Case To Work In George Floyd Case

Pilgrim is a senior majoring in psychology at Spelman College. The presidents of both colleges spoke highly of the their two students during the press conference.

"From my conversations, I found Young to be a gentleman and a scholar," Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said. "My email was full of students reaching out, asking if I knew and how we were going to respond."

"I'm totally shaken and outraged," Spelman College President Mary Campbell said. "We will not accept this kind of behavior from our law enforcement."

Young stood listening with a cast on his arm. Davis said that Young's arm was fractured during the arrest and required stitches.

"In this time of injustice, it feels good to know that I have a support system who understands the severity of this and that change needs to come," Young said.

Stewart said the case is another reminder of the calls for social change across the country.

"2020 is about God trying to open people's eyes," he said, "because so many eyes have been closed for so long regarding civil rights and African Americans."

He denounced the actions of police, comparing their treatment as though they had robbed a bank or "shot up a church."

Pilgrim expressed her thanks to the community, but was also grateful that the interaction was filmed and gained traction online.

"If cameras weren't right there, I don't know what would've happened," she said. 

Following her arrest, she said she waited for three hours in the back of a police van with other women and was not given a protective mask or told what she was being charged with.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed the incident in a press conference Sunday night, where she announced APD investigators Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter were fired for using "excessive force" in stunning the students.

Three other officers were placed on desk duty.

"I had to ask a lot of questions and review the footage again and again," Bottoms said. "We had extensive discussions based on what we saw on that footage."

Young was charged with attempting to elude police and driving on a suspended license. It's unclear how or why police assumed Young was driving with a suspended license when they pulled him over.

As one of the body-worn cameras begins, Young can be seen filming someone being arrested in the street and yelling at the police for it.

RELATED: RAW Body Camera Footage From Fired Atlanta Officer After Live TV Arrest Of College Students

The person being arrested is on the ground screaming and crying, hands zip-tied behind their back. An officer approaches Young and opens his car door, which Young quickly slams. Young then drives a few feet down the street, when he is stopped by traffic.

Street said in his police report that Young was "obstructing traffic" as he drove ahead.

Another officer yelled at Young to open his window before Officer Willie Sauls struck the window with his baton several times before someone used a tool to break the glass. At that time, Streeter aimed a Taser into the car, stunning Young as Investigator Carlos Smith yelled, “he’s got a gun” repeatedly.

In Gardner's police report, he said he heard officers yell about a gun "two or three times" before he deployed his Taser.

"Why are you doing this to me?" Young screams as he's taken away by police in the footage.

The attorneys said Gary Spencer, an Atlanta defense attorney, volunteered to work pro bono for Young to get the arrest expunged from his record.

Gofundme fundraiser was set up for the couple's bail and to support their families. Donors had raised $168,186 as of Monday evening. 

While Young said he was shaken by the encounter, he said he hopes it'll be a teachable moment.

"This was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced in my life," he said. "It's great to know so many people have become aware of it. And it's a blessing I'm alive."

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