5 Memphis police officers charged with murder in the death of Tire Nichols

MEMPHIS, Tenn.. (AP) – Five discharged Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tire Nichols, a black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with officers during a traffic violation. to end.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office online records show that Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith, all of whom are black, were in custody. All five are charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Court records do not list attorneys for Smith, Bean or Haley. Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, confirmed that his client turned himself in. He and Mills’ attorney, Blake Ballin, said they planned to discuss the allegations at a press conference later Thursday.

First-degree homicide is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press over the phone that he and his wife RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols’ mother, have discussed the second-degree murder charges and are “okay” with it. They had pushed for charges of first-degree murder.

“There are other allegations, so I agree,” he said.

He said he was “ecstatic” that authorities acted quickly on the matter.

The family’s attorneys, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement praising the allegations.

“The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally responsible for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tire,” they wrote. “This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting way that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure that this violence stops during low-threat procedures, such as a traffic check in this case.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who founded and runs the National Action Network and will deliver the eulogy next week at Nichols’ funeral service, called the allegations “a necessary step in delivering justice” for Nichols.

“There’s no point putting a body cam on an officer if you can’t hold them accountable when the footage shows them brutally beating a man to death,” Sharpton said. “Fire is not enough. Charges and arrests are not convictions. As we have done in the past…we will stand by this family until justice is done.”

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said he would provide an update on the state investigation Thursday afternoon.

Nichols’ family and their lawyers have seen police video of the arrest, but the video has not been released to the public, although authorities said they would release it this week or next week.

The Memphis police chief called the actions of five officers involved in Nichols’ violent arrest “heinous, reckless and inhumane” and urged residents of the predominantly black city to protest peacefully when the video is released.

“This is not just a professional failure. This is a failure of basic humanity toward another individual,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said in a video statement released on social media Wednesday night.

Davis said the five officers “directly responsible for the physical assault of Mr. Nichols” were fired last week, but other officers are still under investigation for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a full and independent assessment”. will be carried out by the Department’s specialized units, without providing further details.

As state and federal investigations continue, Davis pledged police “full and complete cooperation” in determining what contributed to Nichols’ January 10 death.

Mulroy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that local and state detectives want to conduct as many interviews as possible before the video is released. The timeframe has confused some activists who expected the video to be released after Nichols’ family and the family’s lawyers viewed it Monday.

Crump said the video showed Nichols — a 29-year-old FedEx employee and father — shocked, sprayed with pepper spray and restrained when pulled over for a traffic stop near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park where he had taken pictures of the sunset. The legal team said officers beat Nichols for three minutes in a “ferocious” encounter reminiscent of the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

Relatives have accused police that Nichols suffered a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have said only that Nichols experienced a medical emergency.

When video of the arrest is released publicly, Davis expects the community to respond.

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand actions and results, but we need to make sure our community is safe in this process,” she said. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”

Davis said the actions of the fired officers are not a reflection of the good work many Memphis police officers do every day and she vowed to take action to make improvements at the agency.

“It is my intent, as a proactive measure, to ensure that there is a full and independent review of all specialized units of the Memphis Police Department and the commitment of my executive leadership to ensure that policies and procedures are adhered to in our daily encounters with the citizens we are sworn to serve,” she said.

One of the officers, Haley, was previously charged with using excessive force. He was named as a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.

In the complaint, Cordarlrius Sledge stated that he was imprisoned in 2015 when Haley and another correctional officer accused him of flushing contraband. The two officers “punched me in the face,” the indictment said. A third officer then hit his head on the ground, Sledge said. According to the complaint, he lost consciousness and woke up in the medical center of the institution.

The claims were eventually dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had not filed a complaint against the officers within 30 days of the incident.

Two firefighters were also released due to the Nichols’ arrest.


Reynolds reported from Lexington, Kentucky.

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