Former Memphis police officers charged with murder in connection with Tyre Nichols' death
By: April Carson
Shelby County court records have revealed that all five former Memphis police officers who were terminated in the wake of their role in Tyre Nichols' arrest earlier this month are now facing murder charges.
According to Shelby County criminal court records, five individuals - Taddarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, and Desmond Mills Jr. – were accused of an extensive list of offenses including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping as well as official misconduct and one charge for official oppression.
At the start of this case, there were several questions surrounding the circumstances that led to Tyre Nichols' death. An autopsy report stated that the cause of death was due to “asphyxia following physical restraint.”
In Tennessee, second-degree murder is recognized as a "knowing killing of another" and falls into the Class A felony category with excruciating penalties including 15 to 60 years in jail.
Just three weeks before the criminal charges, a 29-year-old Black man named Nichols was tragically hospitalized after enduring a malicious confrontation with Memphis police officers during a traffic stop. According to family attorneys, he suffered from an extreme beating. Despite medical assistance, Nichols passed away on January 10th due to his injuries - merely three days after his arrest.
Last week, the Memphis Police Department had no choice but to terminate five Black officers for their breaches in policy concerning excessive use of force, intervenience obligations, and rendering aid. The five officers involved in the confrontation with Nichols were indicted on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
Police have yet to share video footage of the arrest with the public, though family members and lawyers were shown it on Monday. According to them, what they witnessed was a violent and excessive beating that resembled Rodney King's in 1991 - further proof of law enforcement brutality.
The past few weeks have been especially difficult for the family of Tyre Nichols, and now they are determined to seek justice.
Since George Floyd's murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May 2020, and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement, law enforcement across America has been subjected to increased criticism for their treatment of African Americans. The death of Tyre Nichols, who was unarmed and defenseless at the time of his arrest, underscores this criticism.
On Wednesday evening, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis released a YouTube video in which she denounced the officers' actions and encouraged peaceful protests when the arrest footage is made available to the public.
Davis passionately declared in the video, her first on-camera statements about the arrest, that "this is not just a professional failing. This is an act of inhumanity toward another individual." She also mentioned that with transparency being paramount in this situation when the recorded footage gets released soon, everyone will be able to see for themselves how heinous and reckless it was.
"Exercising the First Amendment right to demonstrate is a crucial way for our citizens to demand change and results," Chief Davis, Memphis' first Black female police chief said. "But it's paramount that we ensure safety in all protests. This isn't an invitation or license for violence or destruction directed against either our community or its people."
Chief Davis went on to say that the actions of these two former officers serve as a reminder of "the deep-rooted and systemic issues that plague our society, and how there is much work still needed for us to create an equitable justice system for all."
Just recently, the Memphis Police Department released that five of its officers were dismissed due to violations of department policy. It was noted that all these newly terminated personnel had only been aboard for six years or fewer. Additionally, there are still other officers currently under thorough investigation concerning their involvement with this incident.
The fire department has taken action, removing two firefighters from their current roles who were responsible for Nichols' initial patient care. A spokesperson of the fire department made this announcement. Furthermore, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Nichols’ death, and the US Department of Justice alongside the FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation into this case.
The incident involving Tyre Nichols' death has had a major impact on the city of Memphis. Not only have former police officers been terminated and other personnel removed from their duties, but two separate investigations are underway to uncover any further wrongdoing in connection with this case.
As the video's release looms, law enforcement agencies across the US are preparing for potential public unrest and protests. In response to this, Laura Cooper - Executive Director of Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a leading professional organization within policing - has hosted multiple calls with MCCA member agencies in anticipation of any possible disturbances.
According to a law enforcement source familiar with the national coordination, Memphis police contacted participants in at least one of their calls to warn them of possible unrest. Moreover, Washington DC law enforcement agencies held an additional call to effectively coordinate and disperse information between each other.
Nichols, a proud father of one 4-year-old, had worked for his stepfather at FedEx for about nine months. In his free time he could be found skateboarding in Shelby Farms Park or sipping on coffee with friends while capturing the sunsets; proudly displaying his mother's name tattooed on his arm. Unfortunately due to Crohn's disease, Nichols was limited dietarily and still stood 6 foot 3 inches despite only weighing 140 to 145 pounds.
On the 7th of January, Memphis officers conducted a traffic stop due to suspicion of reckless driving. As they approached the car, an altercation broke out between the officers and Nichols who then ran away from them on foot. The cops chased him through several blocks before apprehending him after another confrontation that occurred during their pursuit.
Struggling for breath, Nichols was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and passed away three days later, according to police.
On Monday, when attorneys for Nichols' family viewed the video of his arrest, they were appalled by what they saw. Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer declared it to be an inhumane police beating that persisted for three minutes. Furthermore, Antonio Romanucci reported that not only was Nichols tased and pepper-sprayed during this time but he also endured kicks from the officers involved.
Romanucci said of the video, "It was a relentless attack on this innocent young man for three minutes; he had no protection. The force and ferocity used against him was nothing short of savage."
The legal team for the Nichols family is currently in negotiations to settle with the City of Memphis. Romanucci commented, "We hope that this case will be resolved without further legal action." However, even if a settlement is reached, it would not replace the irreplaceable life lost due to police brutality.
Attorneys commissioned an autopsy, which revealed that Nichols had suffered an immense beating resulting in extensive bleeding. In addition, medical evidence showed that the young man had been struck multiple times with a baton or blunt object.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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