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5 Memphis cops ‘all responsible’ for Tire Nichols’ death

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Five fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes in the murder of Tire Nichols, a black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with officers during a traffic stop.

A grand jury has returned indictments against Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said at a news conference. The fired officers, who are all black, each face charges of second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Mulroy said that although the fired officers each played a different role in Nichols’ murder, “they are all responsible.”

He said police video of the traffic stop, which Nichols’ family and their lawyers say shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old father and a FedEx employee for three minutes, will be made public. Friday after 6 p.m.

Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press by phone that he and his wife RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols’ mother, discussed the second-degree murder charges and were “d ‘OK”. They had been pushing for first-degree murder charges.

“There are other charges, so I’m okay with that,” he said.

Wells, who earlier this week called for any protests that occur when the video is released to remain peaceful, also said he was “ecstatic” that authorities acted quickly in the case.

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said at the press conference that he had seen the video and found it “absolutely appalling”.

“Let’s be clear: what happened here doesn’t reflect proper policing at all. It was wrong. It was criminal,” Rausch said.

Court records show the five former officers were in custody. The records do not mention attorneys for Smith, Bean or Haley. Martin’s attorney, William Massey, confirmed that his client had surrendered. He and Mills’ attorney, Blake Ballin, said they plan to discuss the charges at a press conference later Thursday.

Second degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

Nichols’ family lawyers, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, released a statement praising the charges.

“News today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally responsible for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to press for justice in Tyre,” they said. writing. “This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting way that underscores the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops happening during low-risk procedures, such as in this case a traffic stop. .”

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who founded and runs the National Action Network and will deliver Nichols’ eulogy next week, called the charges “a necessary step to bring justice” to Nichols, who was an avid skateboarder and father of her 4 year old son.

“There’s no point putting a body camera on a cop if you don’t hold them accountable when the footage shows them relentlessly beating a man to death,” Sharpton said. “Dismissals are not enough. Charges and arrests are not convictions. As we have done in the past…we will stand with this family until justice is served.”

The Memphis police chief called the actions of the fired officers that night “abhorrent, reckless and inhumane” and urged residents of the predominantly black city to protest peacefully when the video was released.

“It’s not just a professional failure. This is a basic lack of humanity to another individual,” Memphis Police Superintendent Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said in a video statement posted to social media late Wednesday.

Davis said the five officers deemed “directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols” were fired last week, but other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she indicated that “a complete and independent examination” will be carried out on the specialized units of the department, without giving more details.

Two firefighters were also fired following the Nichols’ arrests.

As state and federal investigations continue, Davis pledged the “full cooperation” of the police department in determining what contributed to Nichols’ Jan. 10 death.

Mulroy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that local and state investigators wanted to conduct as many interviews as possible before releasing the video. The timing upset some activists who expected the video to be released after Nichols’ family and family lawyers viewed it on Monday.

Crump said video showed Nichols being shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over for a traffic stop near his home. He was returning from a suburban park where he had taken pictures of the sunset. The legal team compared the beating to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

Relatives accused police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities said only that Nichols suffered a medical emergency.

When video of the arrest is made public, Davis said she expected community members to respond, but urged them to do so peacefully.

“I expect our fellow citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we need to make sure our community is safe in this process,” she said. . “None of this is a calling card to incite violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”

One of the officers, Haley, has previously been accused of using excessive force. He was named a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2016 while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.

The plaintiff, Cordarlrius Sledge, said he was detained in 2015 when Haley and another prison officer accused him of chasing contraband. The two officers “punched me in the face,” according to the complaint. A third officer then hit his head on the ground, Sledge said. He lost consciousness and woke up in the facility’s medical center.

The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had not filed a grievance against the officers within 30 days of the incident.


Reynolds reported from Lexington, Kentucky. Associated Press reporters Aaron Morrison in New York and Travis Loller in Nashville contributed to this report.

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