Federal grand jury indicts former Memphis police officers over killing of Tyre Nichols News
© WikiMedia (Thomas R Machnitzki)
Federal grand jury indicts former Memphis police officers over killing of Tyre Nichols

A US federal grand jury indicted five Memphis Police Department officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols on Tuesday on four new federal criminal charges. The same officers also face Tennessee state charges under a grand jury six-count indictment handed down earlier this year. All five have already pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

The five indicted officers include Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. All five were a part of a now disbanded specialized unit within the Memphis police force known as the SCORPION unit, which was formed to address a rise in violent crime in Memphis. They now face four federal criminal charges.

With the first charge, prosecutors allege the officers deprived Nichols of his constitutional rights through the use of excessive force and their failure to intervene. The indictment specifically states that the officers willfully deprived Nichols of his freedom from unreasonable seizure under the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, including his right to be free from the use of unreasonable force. Additionally, the indictment alleges that the five officers failed to intervene to stop their unlawful assault of Nichols.

The second federal charge is also deals with the officers’ deprivation of Nichols’ constitutional rights, however, this charge deals specifically with the officers’ alleged “deliberate indifference.” Following the assault, the five officers knew Nichols required medical aid and rendered none, nor did they notify the Memphis Police Department or emergency services. This ultimately led to Nichols’ death. The indictment states that, in doing so, the officers deprived Nichols of his constitutional right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The third charge claims that, following the assault, the officers conspired to mislead their supervisor and other officers to conceal the truth of their actions. Specifically, the indictment alleges that the five officers did not want their superiors to learn of the incident over fear that it may constitute a federal offense.

Finally, the fourth charge alleges that they committed witness tampering by omitting information from their police reports. In doing so, the indictment claims that they obstructed justice from being appropriately carried out.

Tyre Nichols died in a Memphis hospital three days after the former officers brutally beat him following a traffic stop on January 7. The beating was caught on video by officers’ body cameras and a camera mounted on a nearby pole. The five officers pulled Nichols over for alleged reckless driving. However, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis later told CNN there is “no proof” that Nichols was driving recklessly. The Memphis police disbanded SCORPION after Nichols’ killing.

Though Tennessee has not yet decided on a penalty for the five officers’ guilty pleas, the officers face murder convictions that could them in prison for up to 60 years. If found guilty of the federal charges, they could face life in prison.