(AP) — Five former Memphis police officers were scheduled to make their first court appearance Friday on murder and other charges in the violent arrest and death of Tyre Nichols.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and their lawyers were expected to appear before a judge in Shelby County Criminal Court. The officers were fired after an internal Memphis Police Department investigation into the January 7 arrest of Nichols, who died in a hospital three days later.
In addition to second-degree murder, the officers also have been charged with aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. They are all out on bond.
Nichols’ death is the latest police killing to prompt nationwide protests and an intense public discussion about police brutality. Nichols, 29, was black. All five officers charged in his death also are black.
Nichols was stopped for an alleged traffic violation and pulled out of his car by officers who used profanity, with at least one brandishing a gun, records showed. An officer hit Nichols with a stun gun, but Nichols ran away toward his nearby home, according to video released by the city.
Officers who were part of a crime-suppression team known as the Scorpion unit caught up with Nichols and punched, kicked and slugged him with a baton as he yelled for his mother.
After the beating, officers stood by and talked with one another as Nichols struggled with his injuries on the ground, video showed. One officer took photos of Nichols as he was propped up against an unmarked police car, according to video and records.
Nichols was taken to a hospital in an ambulance that left the scene of the beating 27 minutes after emergency medical technicians arrived, authorities said.
Police said Nichols had been suspected of reckless driving, but no verified evidence of a traffic violation has emerged in public documents or in video images. Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis has said she has seen no evidence justifying the stop or the officers’ response. She disbanded the Scorpion unit, which she created in November 2021, after Nichols’ death.
One other white officer who was involved in the initial traffic stop has been fired. An additional officer who has not been identified has been suspended.
Three Memphis Fire Department employees who were present at the site of the arrest have also been fired. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies who also were there have been suspended without pay for violations including failing to keep their body cameras on.
Nichols’ family, their lawyers, community leaders and activists have called for changes within the Police Department on issues related to traffic stops, use of force, transparency and other policies.
Some of the relatives and lawyers have praised Davis and the department for the swiftness of their response and said it should be the standard for other investigations into police brutality.