Five former Memphis police officers were arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Tire Nichols, who died after having multiple “run-ins” with law enforcement during a routine traffic stop. Prosecutor Steve Mulroy said “the world is watching us and we need to show the world what lessons we can learn from this tragedy,” noting that the charges — and the upcoming public release of police footage of the incident — would be a step forward. that direction.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith – all former Memphis Police Department officers – were charged with second-degree murder. The officers were sacked last week after an investigation into Mr Nichols’ death.
Mr Nichols was stopped on 7 January for reckless driving, but ended up in hospital overnight following ‘clashes’ with police. He died three days later.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis announced Wednesday that body camera footage showing the events of Jan. 7 would be released at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM Eastern) Friday. The video will reportedly have some redactions and will be around an hour long.
Each of the former officers faces further charges, which are aggravated assault – acting in concert; aggravated kidnapping; official misconduct and official oppression, according to the Shelby County District Attorney’s office.
During a press conference announcing the charges on Thursday, prosecutor Steve Mulroy said an investigation was ongoing and additional charges could be added pending review.
“Although each of the five individuals played a different role in the accident in question, the actions of all of them led to the death of Tire Nichols and they are all responsible,” he said.
David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said that “what happened here is by no means a reflection of proper policing.”
“This was wrong. This was criminal,” she said.
He added, “Simply put, this shouldn’t have happened.”
“I have been in the police force for more than 30 years. I have dedicated my life to this profession,” she said. “I am shocked, I am disgusted by what I have seen and what we have learned through our investigation.”
On the night of the accident, Mr. Nichols had been pulled over by police for reckless driving. A “confrontation” occurred, according to the officers’ report, which resulted in Mr. Nichols attempting to escape from the officers. They caught up with him, and a second “fight” reportedly occurred. Soon after, Mr Nichols reportedly complained of not being able to breathe and was transported to hospital.
His death three days later prompted calls for transparency from the department and the city regarding the events immediately leading up to his hospitalization.
His family and their solicitor, Ben Crump, commissioned an independent autopsy, which found Mr Nichols suffered from “extensive bleeding caused by severe beatings”.
Mr Crump and family asked to see police camera footage of the incident. Upon reviewing the footage, Mr. Crump called it “scary” and compared it to the police beating of Rodney King in the 1990s.
“It is regrettable. It’s atrocious. It’s violent,” he said during a press conference after reviewing the images.
Chief Davis had a similar description of the events, also calling them “heinous” and a “failure of basic humanity to another individual”.
He warned that viewers would likely feel “outraged at the contempt for basic human rights” but urged members of the public who decide to protest to spare the community from “violence and destruction”.
Mr. Crump praised the arrest and indictment of the officers on Thursday.
“The fact 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 Tire,” he said in a statement. “This tragedy fulfills the absolute definition of a pointless and unnecessary death.”
Rodney Wells, Mr. Nichols’ father, said after reviewing the footage he and his family believe the former officers should be charged with first-degree murder, according to The New York Times.
“Justice for us is Murder 1,” he said. “Anything less we will not accept.”