A federal grand jury has indicted five former Memphis police officers for their alleged involvement in the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was brutally beaten by the officers after a traffic stop in January.
The charges and the evidence
The five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. – are facing several charges, including deprivation of rights under color of law, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The indictment alleges that the officers used excessive force against Nichols, who was unarmed and posed no threat to them, and then lied to cover up their actions.
According to the indictment, the officers repeatedly punched and kicked Nichols in the head, face, neck, chest, back, and limbs, causing him to suffer multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, a broken nose, a broken jaw, and internal bleeding. The indictment also states that the officers failed to provide medical care to Nichols, who was unconscious and bleeding profusely from his head.
The indictment cites video footage from the officers’ body cameras and dash cameras as evidence of their misconduct. The footage shows that the officers chased Nichols on foot after he fled from a traffic stop on January 7. The officers caught up with Nichols and tackled him to the ground. Then, they proceeded to beat him mercilessly while he was lying face down and handcuffed.
The footage also shows that the officers made false statements to their supervisors and investigators about the incident. They claimed that Nichols resisted arrest and assaulted them, and that they used reasonable force to subdue him. They also omitted or deleted portions of their video recordings that contradicted their claims.
The reaction and the response
The indictment comes after months of public outcry and protests over the death of Nichols, who was pronounced dead at a hospital on January 10. His family and their attorney Ben Crump have accused the officers of murdering Nichols and demanded justice for him.
Crump said in a statement that the indictment was “a step in the right direction” but not enough. He called for the officers to be convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty under the law. He also urged the Department of Justice to investigate the Memphis Police Department for systemic racism and brutality.
The Memphis Police Department said in a statement that it cooperated fully with the federal investigation and that it does not tolerate any misconduct or criminal behavior by its officers. It said that it has implemented several reforms and policies to improve its accountability and transparency, such as requiring all officers to activate their body cameras during any interaction with the public.
The five former officers pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Friday and were released on bond. They are due back in court on May 1 for a pretrial hearing. If convicted, they could face up to life imprisonment or even death penalty.