MEMPHIS – Five Memphis police officers were charged with second-degree murder Thursday in the death of Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man.
For more than a week, the city has been preparing for the release of video clips that officials say detail how this month’s harrowing end came to Mr. On January 1, Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition. 7 After three days he died. Civic leaders and others in Memphis expressed concern that the video could spark a reaction from residents who were already distressed and angry at Mr. Nichols’ death.
On Thursday, a grand jury indicted five officers — Tadarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmett Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. — indicted. Prosecutors said Justin Smith was charged with kidnapping, official misconduct and official coercion, in addition to second-degree murder. The officers, all black, were fired last week.
“The actions of all of them led to the death of Tire Nichols, and they all have responsibility.”
Officials tried to reassure residents, promising to vigorously pursue accountability. Thursday – 16 days after Mr. left. Nichols was dead – they made the charges as evidence that they followed through. “We did work quickly to expedite the investigation,” Mr. Mulroy said.
The city is expected to release the video Friday night. Officials said it would include nearly an hour of footage from police body cameras and stationary cameras, with limited editing such as blurring the faces of noncity employees. “People will be able to see the whole event from beginning to end,” he said. Mulroy said during an appearance on CNN.
The charges stemmed from an unusually swift state investigation that revealed the officers — who were part of a dedicated force patrolling crime-prone areas of the city — used excessive force, officials said. A separate federal civil rights investigation is also underway.
“All in all, it’s absolutely shocking,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch, who is leading the investigation, said of what he witnessed on video.
“I’m appalled, I’m sickened by what I’ve seen and what we’ve learned through our investigation,” he added. “Let me be clear, what’s going on here doesn’t reflect proper policing. It’s wrong , which is a criminal act.”
In Memphis, a city of 628,000 where nearly two-thirds of its residents are black, the fact that all five fired officers were black added a layer of complicated pain. “I’ve been waiting for their faces to be on TV,” said Carrie Louise Pinson, a 73-year-old resident and longtime activist. “When I see all black cops — how can you How do you do that?”
Lawyers representing the officials said Thursday they had not seen the video and could not comment specifically on the allegations. Still, they urged the community to avoid hasty judgments and challenged depictions of police as vicious and violent.
“Nobody wanted Tye Nichols to die that night,” said Nichols’ representative, William Massey. Martin.
“At this point, we don’t know what evidence they have,” he added. “We didn’t find out, we didn’t see the video. So we’re kind of blind at the moment.”
Representing Mr. Blake Ballin. Mills said his client, a father and family man, was “very frustrated with the whole situation.”
gentlemen. Nichols’ family said earlier this week that they wanted to bring first-degree murder charges against the officers. But civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing them, said Thursday they view the indictment as an encouraging development.
“Today’s news from Memphis officials that these five officers have been held criminally responsible for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to deliver justice for Tire,” Mr. Crump said in a statement.
In his own statement, President Biden said, Mr. Nichols’ family should “conduct a prompt, full and transparent investigation into his death”, adding that violence “has no place in peaceful protest”. gentlemen. Biden also acknowledged that police killings have a “dramatically different impact” on black communities and called on Congress to pass a police reform bill named in honor of George Floyd that stalled in the Senate during his first year in office not before.
gentlemen. On the night of January 1, Nichols was pulled over. 7 near the southeast corner of the city. The officers who stopped him were part of a group of specialized officers known as the Scorpion Unit, which was formed in 2021 to work in neighborhoods where crime and violence are rife.
Police said in their initial statement that “a conflict occurred” when officers approached him. Nichols’ car, he ran away. There was “another confrontation” when police arrested him, the statement said. gentlemen. Nichols complained of shortness of breath and an ambulance was called to take him to hospital, officials said.
His family shared a photo of Mr. Nichols was in the hospital, apparently unconscious and on a ventilator, his face bruised and swollen.
An independent autopsy commissioned by his family found Mr. Nichols “bleeded profusely as a result of severe beatings,” according to preliminary findings released Tuesday.
Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee, a Republican, said in a statement that “cruel, criminal abuse of power will not be tolerated in the state of Tennessee” and that Memphis and its police department “need to take a hard look at the misconduct and failures that have occurred in this state.” within the unit. “
Last week, the police department said the five officers were fired after a “thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident,” which found they violated department policies on excessive use of force, the duty to intervene and the duty to provide assistance.
Two employees who responded to the scene have also been “removed” while an internal investigation is underway, the Memphis Fire Department said.
The five officers charged all joined the department between 2017 and 2020, police officials said. Other officers are also under investigation for policy violations. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said she has ordered a review of specialized groups such as the Scorpion Unit.
The officers were being held Thursday in the Shelby County Jail on bail ranging from $250,000 to $350,000. At least three officers plan to release bail, their lawyers said.
In a video statement posted online Wednesday, Ms. Police Chief Davis said the public will see the outrageous and disturbing footage. “This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane,” she said, “and in the spirit of transparency, you’ll see it for yourself when the video is released in the coming days.”
“I hope you feel what the Nichols family felt,” added Chief Davis. “I want you to be outraged by the disregard for basic human rights as our police have been sworn to do the opposite of what happened in the video.”
On Monday, Mr. shared some preliminary descriptions of what was recorded at the scene. Nichols’ family and their attorney after viewing the video privately.
gentlemen. Nichols’ mother, Row Vaughn Wells, had to stop the video when she tried to watch it. His stepfather called it horrible. The family’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said the video showed Mr. Nichols was beaten like a “human piñata.”
“‘What did I do?’—that was his question,” Mr. Mr Crump spoke to Nichols at a news conference on Monday. “‘what did I do?'”
The video shows Mr. Mr Nichols was beaten by police for three minutes, Mr. Romanucci said, adding that he was also pepper sprayed, shocked with a stun gun and restrained.
gentlemen. Nichols told officers he just wanted to go home, the lawyer said. His parents’ house was less than 100 yards from him.
As the release of the video loomed, officials, community leaders and Mr. Nichols’ family implored residents not to let the demonstration turn into something more dangerous and destructive. “I hope they all stay peaceful because the last thing we need other than this tragedy is for protests to get out of control,” said Ian Randolph, chairman of the NAACP’s political action committee in Memphis.
At Thursday night’s vigil, Ms. “If you’re here for me and Thiel, you’re going to protest peacefully,” Wells said.
“We’re not going to tear down our cities because we have to live in them,” she added.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said in a statement that it is closely monitoring the protests and “stands ready to work with local, state and federal partners to assist the community.”
gentlemen. Nichols’ death has sparked outrage against the police department in Memphis, and tensions over violence and crime have prompted calls for an expanded police presence. The frustrations intensified last year after a kindergarten teacher was kidnapped and found dead during an early morning jog, a gunman opened fire that killed four people and wounded three and launched a citywide manhunt.
“We’ve got a long way to go as a police department — especially one that looks like a community,” said state Assemblyman Tory Harris.
Priest. Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, who leads a coalition of activists called Micah in Memphis, said: “There is something inside policing and the policing culture that has to change.”
“We have officers who feel comfortable doing what those officers do,” Ms. Nichols is not related to Tye Nichols, “which is sadly unacceptable.”
Ben Spiegel Reporting was contributed by Laura Faith Kebede from New York and Memphis. Mrs. Kebede is a reporter with the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis.