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5 Memphis police officers charged with murder in Tyre Nichols' death

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz,Natalie Musumeci   

5 Memphis police officers charged with murder in Tyre Nichols' death
  • Five fired Memphis officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols have been charged.
  • Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition after a traffic stop on January 7. He died three days later.

The five fired Memphis police officers authorities say were involved in the arrest and fatal beating of Tyre Nichols earlier this month in Tennessee are now facing murder charges.

Nichols, 29, was beaten by police and sent to the hospital in critical condition after a traffic stop on January 7. He died three days later.

The Memphis Police Department said last week that it had fired the five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr. — after an administrative investigation into Nichols' death.

Two firefighters who treated Nichols after the beating were also relieved from duty. The city is still actively reviewing if any additional charges will be filed against the firefighters, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

Jail records from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office show that Bean, Martin, Haley, Smith, and Mills have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.

On Monday, law enforcement officials allowed Nichols' family and their lawyers to privately view body-camera footage of Nichols' arrest.

After seeing the footage, which has not yet been released to the public, attorney Antonio Romanucci said Nichols was "defenseless the entire time" while the five police officers, all of whom were also Black, beat him just 80 yards from his home.

"Frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw," David Rausch, the Director of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said during a press conference this afternoon, about what he saw in the video. "In a word, its absolutely appalling."

The city of Memphis will be publicly releasing the video sometime Friday evening, Steve Mulroy said at the press conference.

All five officers were part of the SCORPION Unit meant to fight violent crime on the street, Mulroy confirmed.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing the family, said Nichols was shocked, pepper sprayed, and restrained during the encounter. The attorneys compared the beating to that of Rodney King in 1991.

Crump also said an autopsy commissioned by the Nichols family shows he "suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating, and that his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023."

Nichols' death has sparked outrage in Memphis and across the country. The city is preparing for large-scale demonstrations when police body camera footage of the incident is released Friday afternoon.

President Joe Biden released a statement on Nichols' death on Thursday, calling it "a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all."

"Public trust is the foundation of public safety and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken," Biden said in the statement. "We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people."

A representative from the state's sheriff's association emailed the national organization warning of "responses outside of traditional protest," News Channel 5 in Nashville reported.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis on Wednesday called the "physical abuse" of Nichols during the traffic stop "egregious," and said the five Memphis officers were found directly responsible for it.

Davis spoke directly to the community, noting that outrage is expected, but urging against violence in the streets.

"This is not just a professional failing, this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane," she said.

"I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video," the chief added.

"I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results," said Davis. "But we need to ensure our community is safe in this process. None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens."

Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton called the charges "a necessary first step in delivering justice for Tyre and his family, although nothing will ever be enough to fill the void that his loss has left."

He added, "There is no point to putting a body camera on a cop if you aren't going to hold them accountable when the footage shows them relentlessly beating a man to death."

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