5 Memphis ex-police are charged with murder and jailed over the death of Tyre Nichols
Updated January 26, 2023 at 6:39 PM ET
Five former Memphis police officers have been indicted and jailed in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, who died days after a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith each face several charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Like Nichols, all of the fired officers are Black.
On Wednesday, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis released a video statement discussing "the horrific circumstances" of Nichols' death. She called it a professional failing and said "the incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane."
During a news conference announcing the indictments of the five officers, prosecutors gave new details about what happened during the Jan. 7 traffic stop.
NEWS ALERT: Five men, now former officers from the Memphis Police Department, face felony charges following an independent use-of-force investigation by special agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) January 26, 2023
DETAILS: https://t.co/1ZRAv6uNkx pic.twitter.com/I9spwJV9PB
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told reporters that while each of the five officers played a different role, "the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible."
"We did work quickly to expedite this investigation because of the extraordinary nature of this case," Mulroy said. "We worked swiftly and also fairly — calculated to ensure we have a strong case."
Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after he was stopped by Memphis police for reckless driving. Police said the 29-year-old fled the scene of the traffic stop but eventually was taken into custody after two "confrontations" with officers.
Nichols had complained of shortness of breath following his arrest and was taken to the hospital in critical condition, according to authorities. His family said the police beat him so badly that he became unrecognizable.
A grand jury returned indictments and charged all five officers with the same charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.
All five surrendered to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents Thursday morning and are being held in the Shelby County Jail. Bond is set at $350,000 for Haley and Martin, and $250,000 for Bean, Mills, and Smith.
Defense attorneys say they have not yet seen the video of Nichols' arrest
Following Thursday's news conference, two defense attorneys representing two of the former Memphis police officers spoke to reporters.
The attorneys told reporters there are two sides to every story.
Defense attorney Blake Ballin, who represents Desmond Mills Jr, describes Mills as a "gentle, respectful father" and that he's "devastated to be charged himself with a crime." He also said that Mills has dedicated his life to protecting his community and to be accused in the death of someone is "devastating."
Attorney William Massey, who is representing Emmitt Martin III, told reporters that neither he nor Ballin has seen the body camera videos yet, adding that anytime an officer goes to jail is a "traumatic event."
Police body camera footage is expected to be made public in the coming days
Body camera footage of the incident has been shown to Nichols' family but has not been made public. Authorities said told reporters Thursday they will release it sometime Friday after 6 p.m. local time.
The Shelby County District Attorney's Office said in its statement it understood the "reasonable request from the public" to view the video of Nichols' death. The office said it was working to determine how quickly it could release the footage.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden released a statement Thursday afternoon, extending condolences to Nichols' family and the Memphis community.
"Tyre's family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death," Biden said, as he pointed out that the fatal encounters with law enforcement continue to disparately impact Black and brown people.
"To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect," Biden added.
In anticipation of the video's release, NAACP President Derrick Johnson released a statement calling on Congress to take action against police reform.
"Our country is once again bracing for the release of another traumatizing video of yet another police killing. If anyone needs to see this video, it's every single leader in congress," Johnson said in his statement.
"By failing to write a piece of legislation, you're writing another obituary. By failing to pass the legislation, you're passing on your sworn duty to protect the people," he added.
Family's attorney says Nichols was the latest victim "of a simple traffic stop"
Ben Crump, one of the family's attorneys, said during a news conference earlier this week that Nichols was tased, pepper-sprayed and restrained during the arrest.
Crump said that, in body camera footage of the incident, Nichols could be heard calling out for his mother.
"Yet again, we're seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops," Crump said. "You should not be killed because of a simple traffic stop."
In a statement following Thursday's news conference, Crump said that, although the five officers are being held criminally accountable for their actions, policing in the U.S. still needs a great deal of reform.
"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," he said.
Earlier this week in a statement posted to Twitter, Davis, the police chief, said the five officers violated multiple police department policies — "including excessive use of force, duty to intervene. and duty to render aid."
"The Memphis Police Department is committed to protecting and defending the rights of every citizen in our city," Davis said. "The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, every day."
Two Memphis fire department employees were also "relieved of duty" as an internal investigation is being conducted.
Memphis Fire Department spokesperson Qwanesha Ward told NPR the employees — who were not identified — were "involved in the initial patient care" of Nichols. She did not go into further details.
"This is an ongoing investigation, and we cannot comment further at this time," Ward said.
NPR's Joe Hernandez contributed to this report. contributed to this story
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.