Suspended Deputies in Nichols Case Did Not Keep Body Cams Activated

February 16, 2023

Two sheriff’s deputies who have been suspended for five days for their role in the deadly arrest of Tyre Nichols in Memphis had not kept their body cameras on during the incident.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies Jeremy Watkins and Johntavious Bowers each violated multiple policies after arriving on the scene of Nichols’ traffic stop on January 7, Sheriff Floyd Bonner said in a statement.

Nichols sustained a beating by police that started out as that initial traffic stop. Roughly two weeks after the incident five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr.—were fired and then less than a week later were charged with 2nd degree murder.

Several more Memphis officers are facing discipline following the incident, bringing the total number so far targeted in the case to at least 13.

Police body camera video shows that Nichols fled the initial encounter at his car in the middle of a Memphis street. It started when officers approached Nichols with force that was disproportionate for the alleged offense of “reckless driving,” according to a statement from the disciplinary hearing for now-fired officer Preston Hemphill, who drew his gun while approaching Nichols.

When officers caught up with Nichols several blocks away, both police body cam video and pole-camera video of the street scene show that he was beaten unconscious and then propped up against a parked car. Three EMTs have been fired for not responding to Nichols as he fell over onto his side several times before an ambulance finally arrived.  

According to authorities, the ambulance left the location of the beating 27 minutes after the EMTs arrived. Nichols died in a hospital three days later.  

The sheriff’s office had previously said two deputies who went to the scene after Nichols was beaten had been disciplined and were under investigation. But the county law enforcement office had not divulged further details, including their names or any actions they did or did not take.

Reports released by the sheriff’s office late Wednesday showed Bowers and Watkins were suspended for five days without pay for failing to keep their body cameras and in-car video activated while at the arrest scene. Both suspensions began Wednesday.

The deputies did not notify dispatch or their supervisor, according to the reports, nor did Watkins report in his daily log that he had gone to the scene of Nichols’ violent arrest.

Sheriff Bonner said his office does not believe that the deputies will face criminal charges related to the Nichols case, which is also under review by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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