A Tennessee grand jury Thursday indicted five former Memphis Police Officers for their involvement in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith stopped Nichols on January 7 in a traffic stop. Nichols died in the hospital three days after the interaction. The officers face charges of second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official suppression and two counts of official misconduct.
In response to the indictment, attorneys for Nichols’ family stated:
The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre. This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points tot he desperate need for change and reform to ensure that this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop. This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needles and unnecessary death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served.
Additionally, the family’s legal team announced that they had an independent autopsy performed on Nichols’ body, which indicated that Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” consistent with what the family and their attorneys, who were permitted to view the video of the incident before its release, saw in the footage.
On January 8, Memphis Police stated that officers “attempted to make a stop for reckless driving” but as the officers approached Nichols, “a confrontation occurred” before Nichols allegedly fled the scene on foot. Another confrontation occurred after officers allegedly pursued Nichols and attempted to take him into custody. After finally being apprehended by police, Nichols complained of shortness of breath and an ambulance was called. He was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.
Video of the confrontation has yet to be released to the public. In a statement released Wednesday, Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis urged protesters to remain peaceful as the authorities are poised to release the video of the incident. She commented:
This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane, and in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in a few days, you will see this for yourself. I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outraged 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.
On January 20, the Memphis Police reported that they terminated all five officers for violating “multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid.” In addition to criminal charges, the officers face a civil rights investigation by the US Attorneys Office.