Five former Memphis police officers who were fired earlier this month for their actions during the arrest of Tyre Nichols have been indicted on charges including murder and kidnapping, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday. .
Former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of misconduct in public office and one count of murder . Official oppression, Mulroy said.
“While each of these five individuals played a different role in the events in question, all of them are responsible for the actions that led to Tire Nichols’ death,” he said.
All five officers are currently in custody, Mulroy added. Their lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Video of the fatal police encounter, including body camera footage and pole camera footage, is expected to be released after 6 p.m. Friday, he said.
“This is serious business. These are extremely serious allegations,” Mulroy told CNN’s Don Lemon. “I think after everyone sees the video, I don’t think there will be any problem with the allegations.”
Live updates on the Tire Nichols case
Second-degree murder is defined in Tennessee as “knowingly killing another person,” a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.
The criminal charges come three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was hospitalized following a traffic jam and a “standoff” with Memphis police in what the family attorney described as a savage assault. Nichols died of his injuries on January 10, three days after his arrest, authorities say.
Last week, five Memphis police officers, who were also black, were fired for violating policies on excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to provide assistance, the department said.
Authorities have not released the video of the arrest publicly, but it was shown to Nichols’ family and attorney on Monday. They said the footage showed officers beating Nichols severely and compared it to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
“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 Till,” said the Nichols family attorney Ben Crupp and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.
“The loss of this young man’s life in a particularly sickening manner demonstrates the urgent need for change and reform to ensure this type of violence stops occurring in low-threat procedures, such as in this case, traffic stops. Tragedy fits the absolute definition of unnecessary and unnecessary death.”
Police across the country have been under increased scrutiny over how they treat black people, especially since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the massive protest movement known as Black Lives Matter since.
In a YouTube video posted late Wednesday, Memphis Police Chief Serelin Davis condemned the officers’ actions and called for peaceful protests as the video of the arrest was released.
“It’s not just a professional failure. It’s a failure of another person’s fundamental humanity,” Davis said in the video, her first comment on the arrest on camera. “This incident was heinous, reckless, inhumane and in the spirit of transparency, you will see it for yourself when the video is released in the coming days.”
“I want our citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest to demand action and outcomes. But we need to make sure our communities are safe in the process,” said David, the first black woman to serve as Memphis police chief. S said. “None of these are calling cards to incite violence or destruction against our communities or against our citizens.”
The five fired officers all joined the department within the past six years, according to police. Other Memphis police officers are still being investigated for department policy violations related to the incident, the chief said.
Two members of the city’s fire department who were part of Nichols’ “initial patient care” were also relieved of duty, a fire spokesman said.Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced investigation The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have opened civil rights investigations into Nichols’ death.
Mulroy said the investigation is still ongoing and further charges may be brought in the future.
Law enforcement agencies across the country are bracing for protests and potential unrest following the video’s release, multiple sources told CNN. The Association of Major Cities Chiefs, one of the leading professional law enforcement organizations, has held multiple conference calls with member agencies, according to Laura Cooper, the group’s executive director.
A law enforcement source familiar with the national coordination told CNN that Memphis police told participants in at least one of the calls to be on the lookout for rioting. D.C. law enforcement agencies have also called for a coordinated response and information sharing, the sources added.
Nichols is the father of a 4-year-old whose stepfather worked for FedEx for about nine months, his family said. He enjoys skateboarding at Shelby Farm Park, going to Starbucks with friends, taking pictures of sunsets, and has his mother’s name tattooed on his arm, family members say. He also suffers from a digestive disorder called Crohn’s disease, which meant he weighed only 140 to 145 pounds despite standing 6 feet 3 inches, his mother said.
On Jan. 7, he was pulled over by Memphis police officers on suspicion of reckless driving, police said in their initial statement about the incident. When officers approached the vehicle, there was a “confrontation” and Nichols fled on foot, police said. Officers pursued him and they had another “confrontation” before he was taken into custody, police said.
Nichols then complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where he died three days later, police said.
In the Memphis police scanner audio, a person said there was “a male black man running” and was asked to “set boundaries.” Another message said “he is fighting at this time”.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family, who viewed the video of the arrest on Monday, described it as a heinous police beating that lasted up to three minutes. Crump said Nichols was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained, and Romanucci said he was kicked.
“He was defenseless the whole time. To those cops, he was a human piñata. Three minutes of undisguised, undisguised, non-stop beatings on this young boy. This is what we Saw it on video,” Romanucci said. “Not only violent, but brutal.”
The lawyers said Nichols “bleeded profusely from severe beatings,” citing preliminary results of an autopsy they commissioned.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the names of the two arrested officers. Their names, according to the indictment, are Emmit Martin and Tadarrius Bean.