Five Memphis Cops Charged With Murder in Death of Tyre Nichols
The five Memphis police officers fired last week for their role in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols were charged with murder Thursday.
The five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — are facing charges of second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and official misconduct and oppression, according to local WHIO.
The Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said Wednesday that the group of cops was “found to be directly responsible” for the attack on Nichols during a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Shortly after being arrested, Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, reportedly complained of “shortness of breath” and was sent to an area hospital. After being admitted to the hospital in critical condition, he died on Jan. 10.
“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,” Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for the Nichols family, said in a statement Thursday.
“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. This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death. Tyre’s loved ones’ lives were forever changed when he was beaten to death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served.”
Last week, when the five officers were fired, the department concluded that they had used “excessive” force on Nichols.
“The Memphis Police Department has concluded its administrative investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Tyre Nichols,” read the statement. “After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five (5) MPD officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
Nichols was first pulled over by police for reckless driving and then fled from the scene following a “confrontation,” as Memphis Police said in a Jan. 8 statement. Police pursued Nichols, leading to a second confrontation and his apprehension, during which point Nichols suffered a medical emergency.
While no bodycam footage of the incident nor an official cause of death has been released, Nichols’ relatives allege that he suffered a heart attack, kidney failure, and other injuries after he was beaten by the arresting officers, all of whom were previously placed on leave “pending the outcome of this investigation,” the Memphis Police Department said.
“After reviewing various sources of information involving this incident, I have found that it is necessary to take immediate and appropriate action,” Davis said in a Jan. 15 statement. “Today, the department is serving notice to the officers involved of the impending administrative actions.”
The U.S. Justice Department announced a federal investigation into the circumstances leading up to Nichols’ death. “The United States Attorney’s Office, in coordination with the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has opened a civil rights investigation,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin G. Ritz said in a statement (via ABC News).
Bodycam footage of the incident is expected to be released to the public Friday evening, with police in Memphis (and other cities) bracing for protests following its release. At a Memphis memorial for her son Thursday, Nichols’ mother Rowvaughn Wells said, “I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets because that is not what my son stood for. If you guys are here for Tyre and me, then you will protest peacefully.”
Wells added (via WREG Memphis), “You can get your point across, but we don’t need to tear up our city people because we do have to live in them.
After Nichols’ family viewed the footage earlier this week, lawyers for the family said in a statement, “Today, with the family of Tyre Nichols, we saw with our own eyes the disgusting way in which he lost his life at the hands of Memphis police. Tyre was brutalized by Memphis police, much like how Rodney King was beaten more than thirty years ago –– but unlike Rodney, Tyre lost his life from this violent attack. How are we here again so many years later? These former officers must face the consequences of taking this young man’s life and robbing his family of their loved one – justice is the only path forward.”
This story was updated Jan. 27 with Nichols’ mother’s comments at his Thursday memorial.
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