Authorities on Friday reported that five dismissed Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder in the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop.
Ex-Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith, who are Black, were charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression.
According to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee, the offenders were also charged with aggravated assault-act in concert and two counts of aggravated kidnapping in the death of Nichols.
The encounter occurred on January 7 and was captured on police body cameras.
Memphis police and other law enforcement agencies across the country were bracing for reaction to the release of the video showing the beating of Nichols, who died January 10, three days after the encounter with police.
The city of Memphis announced it would release video of the police encounter on Friday after 6 pm Central time (0000 GMT Saturday).
Police departments across the country were on notice as they braced for demonstrations.
Memphis police Chief Cerelyn Davis in a video statement on Wednesday said “this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual.
This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane. When the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.”
Davis, taking an apologetic tone in her address, urged citizens to peacefully express their First Amendment rights but added that the disturbing video must not be a “calling card for inciting violence.”
Lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represents Nichols’ family, said the charging of the officers “gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre.
“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.”
Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy announced the charges Thursday afternoon along with David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Rausch said “frankly, I’m shocked. I’m sickened by what I saw. In a word, it’s absolutely appalling. We should not be here. Simply put: This shouldn’t have happened.”
Nichols, a California native who grew up in Sacramento and recently moved to Memphis to work for FedEx was pulled over January 7 and arrested on suspicion of reckless driving, according to Memphis police.
When officers approached Nichols’ car, a confrontation occurred, and Nichols fled the scene on foot, police said.
The police officers pursued Nichols, and another confrontation took place, which led to Nichols’ arrest and subsequent hospitalization, police said.
According to Jennifer McGuffin, the chief spokesperson of Romanucci & Blandon, the law firm representing Nichols’ family said the officers and Nichols were just 100 yards [90 meters] from the home of Nichols’ parents during the encounter.
McGuffin said the video yet to be released shows Nichols being tased, pepper-sprayed, beaten and restrained for three minutes, then he called for his mother and told officers he wished to go home.
A day later, while Nichols was hospitalized, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched a use-of-force inquiry at the request of the local district attorney.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights activist, said he would be traveling to Memphis and that he had spoken with the Nichols family.
“The fact that these officers are Black makes it more egregious to those of us in the civil rights movement.
These officers should not be allowed to hide their deeds behind their Blackness,” Sharpton said in a statement. “We are against all police brutality not just white police brutality.”
Less than two weeks after Nichols’ death, the Police Department announced the firing of the five police officers who were involved in the confrontation.
William Massey, an attorney representing Martin, said his client surrendered on Thursday morning and was “resolved to put this behind him.”
“What police do is dangerous and difficult. And I think this is every policeman’s fear, that something like this would happen on their watch,” Massey said.
A lawyer for Mills said his client was “shocked to have found himself in this position.
“He dedicated his whole life to serving his community,” attorney Blake Ballin said.
The Memphis Police Association, the union representing police officers in the city, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nichols’ death reignited public scrutiny of police brutality nearly three years after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer set off nationwide protests and launched the #DefundThePolice movement.
Police departments across the country were put on high alert on Thursday with the announcement of charges against the officers, prepping for potential demonstrations, especially after the Nichols video is released publicly. (dpa/NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Sadiya Hamza