Five fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tire Nichols, a black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with police officers during traffic. stop.
Shelby County Sheriff's Office online records show that Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith, all black, were in custody. All five are charged with second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
The court records do not include attorneys for Smith, Bean or Haley. Martin's attorney, William Massey, confirmed that Martin's client had turned herself in. He and Mills' attorney, Blake Ballin, said they planned to discuss the charges at a news conference later Thursday.
Second degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
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 are "fine with it." They had pressed charges of first degree murder.
“There are other charges, so I'm fine with that,” he said.
He said he was "ecstatic" that authorities have moved quickly on the case.
The family's lawyers, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement praising the charges.
"Today's news from Memphis officials that these five officers are being penalized for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to press for justice for Tire," they wrote. "This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting way 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."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who founded and runs the National Action Network and will deliver the eulogy at Nichols' funeral next week, called the charges "a necessary step to bring justice" for Nichols.
"There's no point putting a body camera on a cop if you're not going to hold him accountable when the footage shows him relentlessly beating a man to death," Sharpton said. “Layoffs 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.”
Memphis District Attorney: Witness interviews, then video release
Memphis' top prosecutor says the release of police video related to the death of a black man after a violent arrest will be carefully timed to avoid the possibility of suspects or witnesses viewing the footage before giving their statements. (January 24) (AP Video: Noreen Nasir, Carrie Antlfinger)
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said he would provide an update on the state's investigation Thursday afternoon.
Nichols' family and their lawyers have seen police video of the arrest, but the video has not been made public, although authorities said they would release it this week or next.
The Memphis police chief called the actions of five officers involved in Nichols' violent arrest "appalling, reckless and inhumane" and urged residents of the predominantly black city to peacefully protest when the video is released.
“This is not just a professional failure. This is a failure of basic humanity towards another individual,” Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said in a video statement posted Wednesday night on social media.
Davis said the five officers found "directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols" were laid off last week , but other officers are still under investigation for violating department policy. In addition, he said that a "full and independent review" of the department's specialized units will be carried out, without elaborating.
As investigations continue state and federal, Davis promised the "full and complete cooperation" of the police department in determining what contributed to Nichols' death on January 10.
Mulroy told The Associated Press on Tuesday that state and local investigators want to complete as many interviews as possible before releasing the video. The schedule upset some activists who had hoped the video would be released after it was seen by Nichols' family and the family's lawyers on Monday.
Crump said that the video shown It shows Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx worker, who was surprised, pepper-sprayed and restrained when pulled over at a traffic stop near his home. He was coming home from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset. The legal team said officers beat Nichols for three minutes in a "savage" encounter reminiscent of the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.
Family members have accused police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
When the video of the arrest is released, Davis said he hopes the community will react.
“I hope our citizens will exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we must make sure our community is safe in this process,” he said. "None of this is a calling card to incite violence or destruction in our community or against our citizens."
Davis said the actions of the fired officers are not a reflection of the good work many Memphis police officers do every day and vowed to take steps to improve the agency.
“It is my intent, as a proactive measure, to ensure a full and independent review of all specialized units of the Memphis Police Department and the commitment of my executive leadership to ensure that policies and procedures are adhered to in our daily encounters. . with the citizens we are sworn to serve,” he said.
One of the officers, Haley, was previously accused of using excessive force. He was named a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while working for the Shelby County Division of Corrections.
In the complaint, Cordarlrius Sledge testified that he was incarcerated in 2015 when Haley and another correctional officer accused him of dumping 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, according to the complaint.
The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that Sledge had not filed a complaint against the officers within 30 days of the incident.
Two fire department workers were also removed from their duties due to Nichols' arrest.