Tyre Nichols death: Five Memphis police officers arrested on charges of second degree murder
Five former Memphis police officers have been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after having multiple "confrontations" with the law enforcement officials during a routine traffic stop. Prosecutor Steve Mulroy said that “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 forthcoming public release of police bodycam footage of the incident — would be a step in that direction.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — all former Memphis Police Department officers — have been charged with second-degree murder. The officers were fired last week after an investigation into Mr Nichols’ death.
Mr Nichols was pulled over on 7 January for reckless driving but ended the night in a hospital following “confrontations” with the police. He died three days later.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis announced on Wednesday that the body camera footage showing the events of 7 January would be released on Friday at 6pm CT ( 7pm est). The video will reportedly have some redactions and will be approximately an hour long.
The former officers are each facing additional 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 that the investigation was ongoing and that additional charges could be added pending review.
“While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” he said.
David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said “what happened here does not at all reflect proper policing.”
“This was wrong. This was criminal,” he said.
He added: “Simply put, this shouldn’t have happened.”
“I’ve been policing for more than 30 years. I’ve devoted my life to this profession,” he said. “I’m shocked, I’m sickened by what I saw and what we learned through our investigation.”
On the night of the incident, Mr Nichols had been stopped by police for reckless driving. A “confrontation occurred,” according to the officers’ report, which resulted in Mr Nichols allegedly attempting to run away from the officers. They caught up to him, and a second “confrontation” reportedly occurred. Shortly thereafter Mr Nichols reportedly complained that he could not breathe, and was transported to a hospital.
His death three days later led to demands for transparency from the department and the city regarding the events immediately preceding his hospitalisation.
His family and their attorney, Ben Crump, commissioned an independent autopsy, which found Mr Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by severe beating.”
Mr Crump and the family demanded to see the police bodycam footage from the incident. After reviewing the footage, Mr Crump called it “appalling,” and likened it to the Rodney King beating by police in the 1990s.
“It is deplorable. It is heinous. It is 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 “failing of basic humanity towards another individual.”
She warned that viewers would likely feel “outraged by the disregard 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.
“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 Tyre,” he said in a statement. “This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless 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 short of that we will not accept.”