Five Ex-Cops Plead Not Guilty To Murder Charges In Tyre Nichols Death
Five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty on Friday to second-degree murder and other charges in death of Tyre Nichols.
Five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty on Friday to second-degree murder and other charges in the violent arrest and death of Tyre Nichols.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith made their first court appearances with their lawyers before a judge in Shelby county criminal court. The officers were fired after an internal police investigation into the 7 January arrest of Nichols, who died in a hospital three days later.
The officers pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. They are all out on bond. Their next hearing has been scheduled for 1 May.
“Be patient. Work with your attorneys.” the judge, James Jones Jr, said to the officers. “There may be some high emotions in this case.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, were in court with their lawyer, the civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
According to Reuters, RowVaughn Wells told reporters afterward: “I feel very numb. I am waiting for this nightmare – waiting for someone to wake me up.”
She also said the charged officers “didn’t even have to courage to look at [her]” at Friday’s hearing.
How Tyre Nichols
The police killing of Nichols is the latest such killing to prompt nationwide protests and intense public discussion about police brutality. Nichols, 29, was Black. All five officers charged in his death are Black.
Nichols was stopped for an alleged traffic violation and pulled out of his car by officers who used profanity, at least one brandishing a gun. An officer hit Nichols with a stun gun but Nichols ran towards his nearby home, according to footage released by the city of Memphis.
Officers who were part of a crime-suppression team known as Scorpion caught up with Nichols and punched, kicked and slugged him with a baton as he yelled for his mother.
After the beating, officers stood by as Nichols struggled with his injuries on the ground. One officer took photos of Nichols as he was propped against an unmarked police car. Nichols was taken to hospital in an ambulance that left the site of the beating 27 minutes after emergency medical technicians arrived, authorities said.
Police said Nichols had been suspected of reckless driving but no verified evidence of a traffic violation has emerged. The Memphis police director, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, has said she has seen no evidence justifying the stop or response. She disbanded the Scorpion unit, which she created in November 2021.
One white officer who was involved in the initial traffic stop has been fired. An additional officer who has not been identified has been suspended.
Three Memphis fire department employees who were present at the site of the arrest have been fired. Two Shelby county sheriff’s deputies who were there have been suspended without pay.
Nichols’ family, their lawyers, community leaders and activists have called for changes within the Memphis police department on issues related to traffic stops, use of force, transparency and other policies.
Some of the relatives and lawyers have praised Davis and the department for the swiftness of their response and said it should be the standard for other investigations into police brutality.