Former Memphis officers arrested on murder charges in death of Tyre Nichols

by Jacob Fuller

Five former Memphis police officers have been taken into custody on second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Tyre Nichols, a black man who died three days after a traffic stop, county jail records showed on Thursday.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy will hold a news conference about the case on Thursday afternoon. Officials are expected to release bodycam footage of the traffic stop on Friday.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father, died in a hospital on Jan. 10, three days after sustaining injuries during his arrest by the five police officers.

The officers also face two counts of official misconduct, one count of aggravated assault, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.

The Memphis Police Department on Friday identified them as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith, who are all Black and aged between 24 and 32. Each had served with the department for about 2-1/2 to five years.

They were dismissed from the force last Saturday for violating multiple departmental policies, including using excessive force, failing to intervene, and failing to render aid.

“We are waiting to get the indictment. We will know particularly what charges have been brought and we will go from there,” said William Massey, the attorney for Martin.

Attorneys for the five former officers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Two Memphis Fire Department employees involved in the response were relieved of their duties during an investigation, a department spokesperson said earlier this week.

Other Memphis officers remain under investigation for policy infractions, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said on Wednesday. In a video posted on YouTube, she asked for calm when the bodycam footage is made public.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights,” she said. “I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.”

Recent incidents of police brutality against black people in the United States have sparked outrage and calls for reforms in policing.

Protests broke out globally following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes.

The Nichols family viewed the police footage on Monday with their attorney, Ben Crump. He compared the beating to the 1991 Los Angeles police assault on Rodney King that was caught on video and sparked protests and police reforms in that city.

“He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human pinata for those police officers,” Antonio Romanucci, Crump’s co-counsel, told reporters.

The last words heard on the video were Nichols calling for his mother three times, Crump said.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters