5 ex-Memphis police officers are charged with murder in Tyre Nichols' death

A Tennessee grand jury indicted five former Memphis police officers on murder and other charges in connection with the death of Tyre Nichols, authorities said Thursday.

The officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired Friday after police Chief C.J. Davis said they violated department policies during a Jan. 7 traffic stop that led to Nichols’ death.

Martin, Smith and Bean were charged with second-degree murder, three counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of acting in concert to commit aggravated assault, according to Shelby County Jail records.

Mills and Haley were charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of acting in concert to commit aggravated assault.

“The actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told reporters.

Second-degree murder, the most serious of the charges, “is a knowing killing,” the DA said.

Video of the encounter with Nichols will be released after 6 p.m. local time on Friday, according to officials.

More coverage of the death of Tyre Nichols

Haley and Martin were being held in lieu of a $350,000 bond, while Bean, Mills and Smith will need to post $250,000 to leave custody, jail records showed.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation led the probe and agency director David Rausch said the video will be clear cut.

“Simply put: This shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I’ve been policing for more than 30 years, I’ve devoted my life to this profession and I’m aggrieved. Frankly, I’m shocked. I’m sickened by what I saw.” 

Rausch added: “Let me be clear: What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.” 

The indictments were welcomed by the victim’s family.

Charges against the officers give “us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre,” according to statement by Nichols’ family attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci.

“This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop,” they said.

“This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death.”

Early findings in an autopsy show Nichols was severely beaten before he died, the attorneys said earlier this week.

The 29-year-old Nichols died Jan. 10, days after the confrontation with police that landed him him in the hospital.

Nichols had been pulled over in the Memphis’ Hickory Hill neighborhood for alleged reckless driving, officials said.

After an “initial altercation” when “pepper spray was deployed,” the motorist ran, Mulroy told reporters on Thursday.

“There was another altercation at a nearby location where serious injuries were experienced by Mr. Nichols,” Mulroy continued. “After some period of time of waiting around afterward, he was taken way by an ambulance.”  

Mulroy declined to go into greater detail about the deadly confrontation.

Tyre Nichols in the hospital.Tyre Nichols in the hospital.Courtesy family

A photo provided by his stepfather showed a hospitalized Nichols with blood on his face and what appeared to be a swollen eye.

Nichols’ family and their attorneys, Crump and Romanucci, have viewed the body-camera footage of the encounter, though that video has not been made public yet.

Romanucci described it as an “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” for three minutes, saying Nichols was allegedly treated like a “human piñata” by the officers.

Five Memphis police officers were fired in connection with a traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. Clockwise from top left: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr.Five Memphis police officers were fired in connection with a traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. Clockwise from top left: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr.Memphis Police Department via AP

Family attorneys have compared the footage to “the Rodney King video,” referring to the 1991 bystander video of Los Angeles police officers beating a Black man.

In a video statement Wednesday, Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane” — conduct she said people can see for themselves when the video of the stop is released in the coming days. She said the officers “were found to be directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols.”

Representatives of the Memphis Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

When the footage is made public, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said he hopes it will push lawmakers to take decisive action to reform police.

“Tell us what you’re going to do to honor Tyre Nichols,” Johnson said in a statement on Thursday. “Tell us what you’re going to do to show his family, his loving son, and this entire nation, that his life was not lost in vain. We can name all the victims of police violence, but we can’t name a single law you have passed to address it.”

In a statement, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is also an MSNBC host, said: “There is no point to putting a body camera on a cop if you aren’t going to hold them accountable when the footage shows them relentlessly beating a man to death. Firings are not enough. Indictments and arrests are not convictions. As we’ve done in the past — with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and others — we will stand by this family until justice is done. A conviction sends a message to the nation that cops cannot hide behind their badge after committing a heinous action like this.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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