Five former Memphis police officers have been indicted and jailed in relation to the death of Tyre Nichols. The officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, were charged with several crimes including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. It should be noted that both Tyre Nichols and the accused officers are all Black.
On Wednesday, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis released a video statement addressing the tragic death of Tyre Nichols. She acknowledged the severity of the incident and said that it was a failure on the part of the department. Chief Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” During a press conference announcing the indictments of the five officers, prosecutors provided new information about the events that occurred during the Jan. 7 traffic stop.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy stated during a press conference that while each of the five officers had different roles in the incident, “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,” District Attorney Steve Mulroy said during the press conference. He added that the investigation was conducted swiftly, but also fairly, to ensure that they have a strong case. According to reports, Tyre Nichols died on January 10th, three days after he was stopped by Memphis police for reckless driving. The police stated that the 29-year-old had fled the scene of the traffic stop but was eventually apprehended after two “confrontations” with officers.
According to authorities, Nichols complained of shortness of breath after his arrest and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. His family has claimed that the police beat him so severely that he became unrecognizable. A grand jury returned indictments against all five officers and charged them with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. All five officers surrendered to agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) on Thursday morning and are being held in the Shelby County jail. Bond has been set at $350,000 for Haley and Martin, and $250,000 for Bean, Mills, and Smith.
Defense attorneys for two of the former Memphis police officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols stated that they have not yet seen the video of Nichols’ arrest. They made this statement after the news conference on Thursday.
The attorneys stated that there are always two sides to every story. Defense attorney Blake Ballin, who represents Desmond Mills Jr., described him as a “gentle, respectful father” and said he is “devastated to be charged himself with a crime.” He also added that Mills has dedicated his life to protecting his community, and to be accused in the death of someone is a “devastating” event. Additionally, attorney William Massey, who is representing Emmitt Martin III, stated that he and Ballin have not seen the body camera videos yet. He also said that anytime an officer goes to jail is a “traumatic event.”
Body camera footage of the incident has not been made public yet. However, it has been shown to Nichols’ family. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office stated that it understands the “reasonable request from the public” to view the video of Nichols’ death and is working to determine how quickly it can release the footage. The authorities said they will release it sometime Friday after 6 p.m. local time.
Additionally, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden released a statement on Thursday, extending condolences to Nichols’ family and the Memphis community. In the statement, President Biden said “Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death,” and pointed out that fatal encounters with law enforcement continue to disproportionately impact Black and brown people. He added that “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.”
As the public awaits the release of the body camera footage of Tyre Nichols’ arrest and subsequent death, the president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, has called on Congress to take action on police reform. In a statement, Johnson said, “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. 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.”
The attorney for Tyre Nichols’ family, Murray Wells, said in a statement that Nichols was the latest victim of a simple traffic stop and that the incident is a reminder of the need for police reform. He also called for the release of the body camera footage to provide transparency and accountability in the case. Wells also expressed condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and support them in their pursuit of justice.
Crump also stated that Nichols’ death was the latest in a long line of victims “of a simple traffic stop,” and called for the officers involved to be held accountable for their actions. He also emphasized the importance of body camera footage in holding law enforcement accountable and called for the release of the footage to the public. The family and their attorneys have also called for a swift and transparent investigation into the incident.
Crump said that the officers’ charges are a step towards accountability, but it is not enough to address the systemic issues within policing. He stressed the need for reform to prevent similar tragic incidents from happening again in the future. The family’s attorney also highlighted the fact that Nichols’ death was the result of a simple traffic stop and that it should not have resulted in him losing his life.
The death of Tyre King Nichols has led to a criminal investigation by the local authorities, as well as a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department and the FBI. The five police officers involved in the incident have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping. The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, has called for reform in policing in the U.S., stating that “You should not be killed because of a simple traffic stop.” The Memphis Police Department has also launched an internal investigation and has relieved two fire department employees of duty as well. The body camera footage of the incident has not yet been made public, but authorities have stated that it will be released later on Friday.