Atlanta mayor: 2 police officers fired for excessive use of force during protest response

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she and police Chief Erika Shields made the decision after reviewing body-camera footage

The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Two police officers have been fired and three others placed on desk duty over excessive use of force during a protest arrest incident involving two college students, Atlanta's mayor said Sunday.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference that she and police Chief Erika Shields made the decision after reviewing body-camera footage of a Saturday night incident that first gained attention from video online and on local news.

An Atlanta Police Department vehicle burns after George Floyd protests turn violent, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Atlanta.
An Atlanta Police Department vehicle burns after George Floyd protests turn violent, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

“Use of excessive force is never acceptable," Bottoms told reporters. Shields called the footage “really shocking to watch.”

The video, shown on TV as captured by local reporters, shows a group of police officers in riot gear and gas masks surround a car being driven by a man with a woman in the passenger seat. The officers pull the woman out and appear to use a stun gun on the man. They use zip-tie handcuffs on the woman on the ground. The couple did not appear to be fighting police.

TV reporters said the police had earlier broken glass on the car and flattened the tires.

Bottoms said the woman was released without charges. She said the man was released, too, and she's ordering the charges against him dropped. She didn't specify what charges he faced. She didn’t identify the students or the officers.

She said she'd delayed the news conference several hours to review all the body-camera footage because she and Shields wanted to be certain about what happened.

“I really wanted to believe that the body-worn camera footage would provide some larger view that could better rationalize why we got to this space,” Shields said. “And having spent most of the afternoon with the mayor, reviewing the footage exhaustively, I knew that I had only one option, and that is to terminate the employees.”

Bottoms said she had spoken to leaders at Spelman College and Morehouse College, where she said the the young people were students. She said she'd also spoken to representatives for the students but hadn't yet spoken directly to them.

Shields offered an apology and said she knows the officers' behavior was unacceptable and caused further fear.

“Sometimes the best thing, the only thing you can do as a police chief is come in and clean up the mess that’s before you,” Shields said.

“When wrong is wrong, we have to, as law enforcement, start dealing with it in the same manner that we would deal with it with non-law enforcement," Shields said. "For some reason, we’ve fallen into a gray area where there’s a separate set of rules for law enforcement, and if we want to get out of this space that we’re in now we have to change how we manage internally.”

Shields said she experienced a broad range of emotions as just a few hours before she saw the video, another of her officers was seriously injured. A preliminary investigation indicates the officer was in an intersection on foot to block traffic from passing into an area where there were protesters when a person on an ATV approached at a high rate of speed and hit him.

The officer suffered significant injuries to his legs and remained in the intensive care unit Sunday evening, Shields said, adding that she hopes he’ll be able to walk again. The ATV rider was taken into custody at the scene and to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police were investigating the cause of the collision.

Bottoms imposed a 9 p.m. curfew for Saturday and Sunday. Gov. Brian Kemp authorized up to 3,000 National Guard troops to be deployed in cities across the state to respond if needed to protests over the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia.

Atlanta police said Sunday they had arrested more than 150 people as protesters threw rocks at officers and broke windows in the downtown area. The curfew was initially imposed after demonstrations Friday night turned violent with people setting fires and smashing windows at businesses and restaurants.


WASHINGTON — After a violent night of looting and fires, about 1,000 protesters occupied part of Layfayette Park across from the White House on Sunday evening to condemn the death of George Floyd at police hands in Minnesota.

Police in riot gear lined up behind a set of barricades.

The mood was defiant. Protesters called the police murderers and traitors. They chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

The crowd focused on one black police officer, asking him to show support for the protest. “Please black man, take a knee,” protesters told him. “The whole world would see it.

The protesters had marched to the White House from Howard University. After arriving at the park, they pushed through the original barricades that had been set up. But at least at the start, the demonstration was peaceful.

The protest Saturday night turned violent as darkness set in. Protesters set fires, smashed windows and sprayed graffiti.


Several hundred people marched through downtown Boston on Sunday carrying signs and chanting in a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd.

Street protests have been held for days around the country in response to the death of Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing.

In Boston they chanted, “No justice no peace,” “black lives matter” and silence is violence” as they walked by City Hall, the State House, and the Public Garden, with the crowd closing off a two-lane city street. There was a light police presence and no signs of the violence that has erupted in other cities in recent days.

“They keep killing our people. I’m so sick and tired of it,” said Mahira Louis, 15, who was at the protest with her mother. “On the news, every time we say black lives matter they keep silencing us,” she said adding that things are going to change. “They’re not going to kill black people for no reason,” she said.

Most protesters wore face coverings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It isn’t comfortable to be at home but it’s really uncomfortable to be here, too, and know you’re doing this in the face of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Vivian Lee, 22, who participated with her sister and parents. “But it requires some discomfort for change,” she said.


Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, joined the protest on Sunday, telling demonstrators to continue the movement.

He said he drove to Minneapolis from Ferguson even though being a part of another demonstration against the killing of a black man, “tears my heart” as it reminded him of his son.

“I understand what this family is feeling. I understand what this community is feeling,” he said.


Much of Dallas will be under curfew Sunday night as city officials try to prevent a repeat of the violence that broke out at weekend protests over the death of George Floyd and the treatment of black people by police.

Police Chief U. Renee Hall said at a news conference that the core around the city’s downtown will be under curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday. She said it will remain in force “for the next several days.”

The move comes after hours of peaceful demonstrations became destructive Friday and Saturday night. Stores were broken into and robbed, police cars damaged and one man was badly beaten.

“We will not tolerate any more damage to our city,” Hall said.


MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Sunday he is extending a city curfew a second night after protests following the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a local man in an altercation with an off-duty Milwaukee police officer.

Barrett said he had originally issued the curfew for just one night but said “In consultation with the chief and others we will have the curfew remain in effect for tonight.” The curfew goes from 9 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported 125 members of the Wisconsin National Guard will be on duty again Sunday night.

“I think the National Guard did a wonderful job.” Barrett said. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Saturday called on the state National Guard to help support law enforcement in Milwaukee. A 38-year-old police officer suffered a minor gunshot wound early Saturday on Milwaukee’s south side where protesters had gathered near a police precinct. The officer was treated at a hospital and released.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said the officer is recovering at home and that no officers were hurt Saturday night.


Atlanta’s mayor extended a curfew another night Sunday and Georgia’s governor authorized up to 3,000 National Guard troops to be deployed across the state to respond if needed to protests over the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

Guard soldiers had helped enforce a 9 p.m. curfew Saturday in Atlanta, where violence has marred otherwise peaceful protests since Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp said more would be ready Sunday for demonstrations planned in Athens, Savannah and other cities.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Sunday extending the curfew in the city, according to text and email notifications sent to residents. It takes effect at 9 p.m. Sunday and will end at sunrise Monday.

Atlanta police said Sunday they had arrested more than 150 people overnight as protesters threw rocks at officers and broke windows in the downtown area. That brought the total number of arrests over two nights of protests to nearly 230.


As police fired tear gas at protesters in one predominantly black neighborhood in Philadelphia, a few dozen city and state police officers lined up in front of a statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo that has long been a flashpoint for protesters and was sprayed with graffiti Saturday.

Rizzo, mayor from 1972 to 1980, was praised by supporters as tough on crime but accused by critics of discriminating against people of color. Mayor Jim Kenney said Sunday that the 10-foot-tall statue that sits across the street from City Hall will be removed in a few weeks.


SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s mayor and police chief said Sunday the city’s 8 p.m. curfew will be extended indefinitely and that people who are out after that time will be stopped.

Mayor London Breed said Gov. Gavin Newsom had approved sending in about 200 extra officers from other agencies.

Breed, who grew up in San Francisco, expressed sadness about the destruction but said she was not going to tolerate the violence. She said the fire department was inundated with calls because of fires and medical emergencies and had fire bombs thrown at them.

“In watching the videos, I was extremely upset because unfortunately with some of the vandals, they thought this was a game, they thought this was funny. And this is not funny. To damage property, to set fires that could lead to someone else’s death, to do the kinds of things that destroy and tear down our city as a symbol of what is going on ... this is not who we are. We should not be OK with this.”

She said there were a lot of juveniles among the protesters: “So parents, where are your kids? Where are your kids?”

Police Chief Bill Scott said he sympathized with the message of the peaceful protests.

“As an African American man, I think I know probably more than most how it feels. I know both sides of this equation. We’re seeing violence across the country, we’re seeing peaceful protests across the county ... We do hear you. We do hear you. Your mayor hears you, your chief of police hears you, the San Francisco Police Department hears you,” Scott said.


BERLIN — England winger Jadon Sancho joined protests across German soccer at the weekend by lifting his jersey after scoring to reveal a T-shirt with the handwritten message “Justice for George Floyd” on the front.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck.

Sancho was shown a yellow card for his gesture which came after he scored the second goal for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn on Sunday.

Earlier, Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

The Gladbach forward scored in the first half and then dropped his left knee to the ground and rested his right arm on his right thigh as he bowed his head in reflection. He spent 5 seconds in this position before getting up again to continue.

“No explanation needed,” Gladbach said on Twitter with a picture of Thuram kneeling.


WASHINGTON — The mayor of the nation’s capital said Sunday that violence and vandalism from the previous night’s protests were committed by “an organized group that appeared more bent on destruction than protest.”

Muriel Bowser also acknowledged what she described as the legitimate grievances of the peaceful protesters, incensed over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans killed in altercations with police officers.

Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham toured the city around 3 a.m. Sunday, assessing dozens of broken windows, damaged storefronts and a few looted shops.

In a news conference Sunday, Newsham said 17 protesters were arrested and he expected more arrests as police go over security camera footage.

Three Secret Service vehicles were damaged and one police officer had a broken leg from a thrown rock. A contingent of 500 members of the D.C. National Guard remain on standby and will continue to be deployed to assist local security, Bowser said.

“We always in Washington, D.C., welcome peaceful protests. It’s necessary in an American society,” Newsham said. “We are hoping and urging participants to be peaceful. We are hoping that cooler heads will prevail.”

Saturday’s protests took place one day after Bowser had ended a three-month old stay-home order and launched the first phase of the District of Columbia’s reopening plan.

Bowser said Sunday she was “very concerned” that the protests in Washington and elsewhere could provide fertile ground for a new series of outbreaks. Many of the protesters were wearing masks but there were no attempts at social distancing.

“We’ve been working very hard in these last eight to 10 weeks to not have any mass gatherings,” she said. “As a nation, we have to be concerned about a rebound.”


A third night of protests in Louisville sparked by the police shooting of a black woman resulted in 37 arrests, a city official said Sunday.

Chief of Public Safety Amy Hess said at a news conference that officials did not yet know the hometowns of those arrested. Hess said a total of 10 people were arrested during protests Thursday and Friday.

Mayor Greg Fischer added that five Louisville police officers were shot at late Saturday night. None were hit, but three officers were in a car that was struck by at least one bullet, he said.

Fischer said a dusk-to-dawn curfew would continue Sunday night for a second straight night in Kentucky’s largest city.

Louisville’s protests followed the release of a 911 call by shooting victim Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend made March 13, moments after the 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door.

No drugs were found in her home. Taylor’s death has captured national headlines alongside the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February and George Floyd, the black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state-wide disaster Sunday following weekend protests that have turned violent and destructive.

In Texas, much of the demonstrating was peaceful, but the protests became violent Saturday with fires being lit, stores broken into and robbed and people hurt.

Police used tear gas to disperse some of the crowds and said they arrested more than 200 people between Dallas, Houston and Austin.

“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.

“However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.

The order allows Abbott to designate federal agents to do the work of local police. It comes as some Texas organizers are calling off demonstrations and others are planning to proceed.


COLUMBIA S.C. — Some protesters threw rocks at police and set fire to at least two police cars, ignoring pleas from fellow demonstrators to refrain from violence.

On Sunday morning, crews at businesses throughout the downtown commercial district swept up broken glass and affixed sheets of plywood to busted-out windows and doors.

During a news conference in Columbia later Sunday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott — who, as the only black Republican in the Senate, has previously given a series of speeches on race, including his numerous experiences getting pulled over by police — referenced the 2015 death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black South Carolina motorist shot to death by a white police officer during a traffic stop in North Charleston.

Sen. Scott said that, as in the Floyd case, that incident was captured on video, but resulted in only nonviolent protests.

“We cannot have distractions especially fueled by violence,” Scott said. “Protesters, be heard, be seen, but be orderly.”

At that same news conference, Gov. Henry McMaster said the National Guard was on alert to activate if needed, urging protesters to take action but stay peaceful.

“We welcome conversation. We welcome protest, people speaking their mind, we welcome it, and we welcome it every time,” McMaster said “We’re better because of it, but we do not tolerate violence.”

Several cities in South Carolina remained under curfew, including Columbia’s downtown area. On Sunday, the mayor of Myrtle Beach instituted a “state of civil emergency” in that city due to the threat of possible unrest.

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