Former Cops indicted on federal charges in Tyre Nichols case

September 12, 2023

Five former Memphis police officers were indicted Tuesday on federal civil rights charges in the January 7 beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

The five former officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith—have already been been charged with second degree murder at the state level in Tennessee after Nichols suffered a beating amid what allegedly began as a traffic stop January 7 and died in a hospital three days later. 

Nichols was pulled over for alleged reckless driving during the evening of January 7, though the Memphis P.D. has since said there was no evidence to support he was driving recklessly.

The five indicted officers were fired in the aftermath of Nichols’ beating death, as was Officer Preston Hemphill who drew his gun while approaching Nichols’ car on January 7, and Officer DeWayne Smith, a 25-year Memphis P.D. veteran who was the on-scene supervisor the night of the incident.

Three EMTs were also fired following an internal investigation of their response to the scene.

Video footage on the night of Nichols’ beating shows that between the time the EMTs arrived and an ambulance arrived, the first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side. 

During a news conference announcing the federal charges against Nichols, Attorney General Merrick Garland said that after the five indicted officers beat Nichols, “They then failed to render aid to Mr. Nichols and further failed to tell emergency responders that they had struck him repeatedly even as his condition deteriorated, and he became on responsive.”

Garland added that the Department of Justice also alleges that “while Mr. Nichols lay dying in a hospital, the defendants conspired to cover up their crimes, including by falsely stating that Mr. Nichols had actively resisted arrest.”

In doing so, Garland said, the indicted officers willfully deprived Nichols of his Constitutional rights and that their actions resulted in his death.

“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” Garland firmly stated. He went on to say, “Officers who violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect undermine public safety, which depends on the community’s trust in law-enforcement. They dishonor their fellow officers do their work with integrity every day. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers to betray their oath.”

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