Memphis, TN – Five ex-Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers were charged with second-degree murder on Thursday in connection with the in-custody death of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, 29, died in the hospital on Jan. 10, three days after he was involved in a physical confrontation with police during a traffic stop, WMC reported.
According to a press release issued by the MPD on Jan. 8, officers pulled Nichols over for reckless driving in the area of Raines Road and Ross Road at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 7.
“As officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot,” the MPD said. “Officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended.”
After he was taken into custody, Nichols told the officers he was experiencing “shortness of breath,” so an ambulance was called to the scene, according to police.
Nichols was ultimately rushed to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.
The MPD contacted the District Attorney General’s Office “due to the suspect’s condition,” and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) subsequently took over the case, according to the police department.
The officers involved in Nichols’ arrest were placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation, as per protocol.
Nichols died in the hospital on Jan. 10.
His exact cause of death was not immediately released.
MPD Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis announced on Jan. 20 that five officers were ultimately fired after an internal investigation revealed they “violated multiple department policies, including excessive force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid,” CBS News reported.
Those five former officers taken into custody on Thursday morning.
They have been identified as 28-year-old Justin Smith, 32-year-old Desmond Mills, 30-year-old Emmit Martin, 30-year-old Demetrius Haley, and 24-year-old Tadarrius Bean, according to CNN.
The five former officers all joined the MPD within the past six years.
BREAKING: The 5 former Memphis Police Department officers have been indicted by a grand jury on charges ranging from second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression for the death of Tyre Nichols. pic.twitter.com/mkPLf4CCHU
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 26, 2023
They have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping while possessing a weapon, aggravated kidnapping causing bodily injury, aggravated assault-act in concert, official oppression, official misconduct through failure to perform a duty imposed by law, and official misconduct through unauthorized exercise of official power, WMC reported.
Bean, Mills, and Smith were being held on a $250,000 bond.
The bonds for Martin and Haley were set at $350,000 apiece, WMC reported.
Chief Davis said additional officers are still under investigation to determine whether they adhered to department policies, CBS News reported.
Two Memphis Fire Department (MFD) emergency medical technicians have also been placed on leave while the MFD conducts its own internal investigation, according to WMC.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Jan. 18 that they have launched a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy confirmed during a news conference on Thursday that a grand jury indicted the five fired Memphis police officers, according to CBS News.
Mulroy said each of the officers played a different role in Nichols’ death, but that “they are all responsible.”
TBI Director Davis Rausch said the charges are entirely warranted.
“I’ve been policing for more than 30 years. I’ve devoted my life to this profession and I’m grieved — and frankly, I’m sickened, by what we’ve learned through our extensive investigation,” Director Rausch said during the press conference, according to WMC. “Let me be clear. What happened here does not, at all, reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was a crime.”
Mulroy said Nichols’ family has viewed bodycam footage of his arrest, but that it will not be made public until sometime after 6 p.m. on Friday.
Director Rausch said the footage is “absolutely appalling,” CBS News reported.
“I think after everyone sees the video, I don’t think there will be any questions about those charges,” Mulroy told CNN.
Chief Davis said in a video release on Wednesday that the officers’ actions were nothing shy of “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” CBS News reported.
“This is not just a professional failing,” she said. “This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual.”
Memphis police patrolling outside of 201 Poplar – the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center – as protesters and activists gather in the area. #TyreNicholspic.twitter.com/cczmU2Mzcd
— Moshe Schwartz (@YWNReporter) January 26, 2023
Nichols’ family is now being represented by attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, CBS News reported.
Crump said the bodycam footage police showed Nichols’ family showed him being pepper-sprayed, tased, and restrained during the traffic stop.
The family’s legal team has alleged the officers savagely beat Nichols for three minutes during the encounter, CBS News reported.
“He was defenseless the entire time,” Romanucci told CNN. “He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video. Not only was it violent, it was savage.”
The lawyers and family for Tyre Nichols say the body camera footage reminded them of Rodney King, but in this case, Tyre died
Memphis & other locations in the USA are in a position of stasis, pending the release of the body camera footage
High profile protests are expected pic.twitter.com/QiuYUjRnoS
— Red Redact 🇺🇸🇨🇦 (@TheRedOperation) January 26, 2023
Romanucci and Crump issued a joint statement on Thursday after the arrests were announced.
“The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre,” they wrote.
“This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop,” the attorneys added. “This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death.”
Reverend Al Sharpton will be delivering Nichols’ eulogy at his funeral service on Feb. 1, according to WMC.
The video of the death of Tyre Nichols to be released for the public to see sometime after 6pm CT Friday.
This video is described as a vicious, prolonged beating after the officers chased down Nichols who was 80 yards from home & yelling for mom. 🙏🏻#MEMPHIS #TyreNichols #Protest pic.twitter.com/JriI6Waj06
— ∼Marietta (@iMariettaDavis) January 26, 2023
Nichols’ family has asked that any protests and demonstrations held in his name be kept peaceful, CBS News reported.
Chief Davis made the same plea on Wednesday.
“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,” she said, according to CNN. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
I grieve the killing of Tyre Nichols. With our new leadership, Memphis will see that reform and justice are served.⁰
As Memphis and the nation awaits video footage, people may want to protest the brutal actions of the police and should remain peaceful and calm. pic.twitter.com/GT90SO9eGX
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) January 26, 2023
Law enforcement agencies and city officials nationwide are bracing for potential civil unrest with the release of the bodycam footage, CNN reported.
Footage of the incident captured by a pole-cam will also be released, Mulroy said.