Loss of life of Tire Nichols: 5 former Memphis law enforcement officials charged with homicide and kidnapping


Five former Memphis police officers who were fired for their actions during the Tire Nichols arrest earlier this month have been charged with murder and kidnapping, among other things, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday.

Former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. were each charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of misconduct and one count of official repression, Mulroy said.

“While each of the five people played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all led to the death of Tire Nichols and they are all responsible,” he said.

Live updates on the Tire Nichols case

Second-degree murder is defined in Tennessee as “knowingly killing another” and is considered a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.

The criminal charges come about three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was hospitalized following a traffic stop and a “confrontation” with Memphis police, which family lawyers have described as a brutal beating. Nichols succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 10, three days after the arrest, authorities said.

All five officers are in custody, Mulroy added. Her attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They were sent to the Shelby County Jail and bail was set at $350,000 for Haley, 30, and Martin, 30, and $250,000 for Bean, 24, Mills, 32, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. and Smith (28).

Police across the country are receiving increasing attention to how they treat black people, particularly since the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the mass protest movement known as Black Lives Matter. Officials in Memphis braced themselves for possible civil unrest over Nichols’ death and called for peaceful protests.

Video of the fatal police encounter, a mix of body camera video and pole cam video, is expected to be released after 6 p.m. Friday, Mulroy said.

“This is serious business. These are extremely serious allegations,” Mulroy told CNN’s Don Lemon. “I think after everyone has seen the video there will be no questions about these charges.”

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said the fatal encounter was not proper police work.

“I am saddened, frankly shocked, disgusted by what I have seen and what we have learned from our extensive and thorough investigation,” he said. “I saw the video and like DA Mulroy said you will too. In a word, it is absolutely appalling.”

Nichols’ family and attorneys were shown the video Monday and said it showed officers severely beating Nichols and compared it to the Los Angeles Police Department’s beating of Rodney King in 1991.

“Today’s news from Memphis officials that these five officers will be held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal acts gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre,” attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said Thursday.

“This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner, which points to the urgent need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops in low-threat procedures, such as a traffic stop in this case. This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death.”

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis assumed the position in June 2021.

The five Memphis police officers, who are also black, were fired last week for violating policies on the excessive use of force, the duty to intervene and the duty to render assistance, the department said.

In a YouTube video released late Wednesday, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis condemned the officers’ actions and called for peaceful protests if the arrest video is released.

“This isn’t just a professional failure. This is a failure of basic humanity towards another person,” Davis said in the video, her first on-camera comment about the arrest. “This incident was heinous, inconsiderate and inhumane and in the spirit of transparency you will see this for yourself when the video is released in the coming days.”

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest to demand action and results. But we have to make sure our community is safe in this process,” said Davis, the first black woman to serve as Memphis Police Commissioner. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction in our community or against our citizens.”

The five officers who were fired had all joined the department within the past six years, according to police. Other Memphis police officers are still under investigation for violations of department policies related to the incident, the chief said.

Two members of the city fire department who were part of Nichols’ “first patient care” were also relieved of duty, a fire department spokesman said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced an inquiry into Nichols’ death, and the US Department of Justice and the FBI have opened a civil rights investigation.

Mulroy said the investigation was ongoing and more charges could be brought.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are preparing for protests and possible riots following the video’s release, multiple sources told CNN. The Major Cities Chiefs Association, one of the leading professional law enforcement organizations, has convened several calls with member agencies, according to the group’s executive director, Laura Cooper.

A law enforcement source familiar with national coordination told CNN that on at least one of those calls, the Memphis police urged participants to be on the alert for riots. The source added that there had been an additional call to law enforcement in Washington, DC to coordinate responses and share information.

The Memphis Police Department has terminated five officers in connection with the death of Tire Nichols.  Above: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmit Martin.  Below: Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith

Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old, had worked with his stepfather at FedEx for about nine months, his family said. He loved skateboarding at Shelby Farms Park, visiting Starbucks with friends, and photographing sunsets, and he got his mother’s name tattooed on his arm, the family said. He also had the digestive problem known as Crohn’s disease and was slim at just 140 to 145 pounds despite his 6ft 3in height, his mother said.

On Jan. 7, he was pulled over by Memphis officers on suspicion of reckless driving, police said in their first statement into the incident. As officers approached the vehicle, a “confrontation” ensued and Nichols fled on foot, police said. Officers gave chase and they had another “confrontation” before he was taken into custody, police said.

Nichols then complained of shortness of breath, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and died three days later, police said.

In the tone of the Memphis police scanner, one person says “a black male ran” and yelled to “set up a perimeter.” Another message reads, “He is fighting at this time.”

On Thursday, Mulroy offered some more details and said the serious injuries occurred in the second confrontation. He also said Nichols was taken away in an ambulance after “a certain amount of waiting”.

Lawyers for the Nichols family, who viewed video of the arrest Monday, described it as a heinous police beating that lasted three long minutes. Crump said Nichols was stabbed, pepper sprayed and restrained, and Romanucci said he was kicked.

“He was defenseless the whole time. He was a human pinata to those cops. It was a pure, unflinching, non-stop pounding of this boy for three minutes. We saw that in this video,” Romanucci said. “It wasn’t just violent, it was wild.”

Nichols had “extensive bleeding caused by severe beatings,” the attorneys said, citing preliminary results from an autopsy they ordered.

Among the charges, the officers faced two counts of aggravated kidnapping: one of possession of a weapon and one of assault.

“At a certain point in the sequence of events, we believe that if this was a legal detention, at some point it certainly became illegal and it was an unlawful detention,” Mulroy said.

Less than a month after Floyd was killed, the Memphis Police Department changed its intervention policy, according to a copy of the policy sent to CNN by the MPD.

“Any member who directly observes another member engaging in dangerous or criminal behavior or abuse of a topic must take reasonable steps to intervene,” reads the policy, which was sent out on June 9, 2020.

“A member must promptly report to the department any violation of policies and regulations, or any other improper conduct in violation of the department’s policies, orders, or directions.”

The policy goes on to say: “This reporting requirement also applies to allegations of violence that have not yet been reported.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the names of two of the arrested officers were misspelled. According to the indictment, their names are Emmit Martin and Tadarrius Bean.

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