5 Officers Fired After Traffic Stop Leads To Death Of Tyre Nichols - Updated 1/26/23

Started by Steve, 01/21/23 at 09:30 AM

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5 Memphis police officers fired after traffic stop leads to hospitalization, death of Tyre Nichols

Five Memphis police officers were fired Friday after the chief said they violated department policies during a traffic stop in Tennessee this month that ended with the hospitalization and death of a 29-year-old man.

An administrative investigation by the Memphis police found that the officers allegedly violated multiple policies, including use of excessive force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid in the Jan. 7 traffic stop of Tyre Nichols, police chief C.J. Davis said in a statement.

The officers were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. They were hired between 2017 and 2020.

"The Memphis Police Department is committed to protecting and defending the rights of every citizen in our city," Davis said. "The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, every day."

Efforts to reach the officers Friday were unsuccessful.

In an emailed statement, Memphis Police Association President Lt. Essica Cage-Rosario cited an ongoing criminal investigation into Nichols' death and declined to comment on the officers' firing.

"The citizens of Memphis, and more importantly, the family of Mr. Nichols deserve to know the complete account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed to it," she said.

In a statement, lawyers for the family said the officers' firing was a first step toward justice for Nichols and his family.

"They must also be held accountable for robbing this man of his life and his son of a father," lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement.

The statement added that they would review body camera video of the traffic stop in the coming days, "providing clarity into what led to the loss of this young man, father, and son. We will continue to demand transparency and accountability in this case, and will not stop until we achieve full justice for Tyre and his family."

Authorities have said officers stopped Nichols for reckless driving on Jan. 7. A "confrontation" followed, the department said at the time, and officers pursued Nichols when he fled on foot.

While trying to take Nichols into custody, there was another confrontation and Nichols complained of having shortness of breath, the department said.

Nichols died three days later.

Authorities have not provided details about the confrontation.

A photo provided by his stepfather showed a hospitalized Nichols with blood on his face and what appeared to be a swollen eye.

The case is also being reviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice, which announced earlier this week that it had opened a civil rights inquiry.

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GRAPHIC: Video shows 'heinous' beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis officers, attorney says

The family of Tyre Nichols, the man who died days after a confrontation with Memphis police, spoke Monday for the first time since seeing footage from the event that led to his death.

The family retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci to represent them following Nichols' death.

Family members and attorneys got the chance to review the footage Monday before it was publicly released. They also met with Memphis police.

Crump said Nichols' mother was unable to sit through more than a minute of the video. In that first minute, Tyre asked police officers, "What did I do?" Crump said.

Crump called the video "appalling, heinous, violent and troublesome."

"We're seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops," Crump said. "You should not be killed from a simple traffic stop."

Crump says Police Chief CJ Davis told them before watching the video that she was not proud of what they were about to see.

"Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video," Crump said.

Attorney Ben Crump shares their response to watching police video in the Tyre Nichols arrest. (CNN)

Romanucci says Nichols was defenseless during the events of the video. He says Tyre was "a human piƱata" as he was being beaten by police.

"Not only was it violent, it was savage," Romanucci said. He says Nichols was trying to get home to be with his mother, somewhere safe.

He says the officers were in unmarked cars and questioned why they were conducting traffic stops.

Nichols' stepfather Rodney Wells says no parent should ever see what they had to watch.

"Family and the attorneys we have will not stop until we get justice," he said. "And like I said from day one, justice for us is murder one, and anything less than that we will not accept."

Tyre's mother says Nichols was just 80 yards from home when he was beaten.

"When I walked into that hospital room, he was already dead," she said.

Five Memphis Police officers were fired Friday for their involvement in Nichols' traffic stop earlier this month.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement that investigators don't want to release the video to the public yet, because they don't want to risk compromising the investigation. He expects it will be released this week or next week.

For weeks, people across the city have pleaded for the release of the video.

This incident happened Jan. 7. In a report, Memphis police said there was a confrontation as officers approached Nichol's car in a stop for reckless driving.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx worker, ran and then there was another confrontation before he was detained, police stated.

Officers said Nichols complained about shortness of breath, and they had an ambulance take him to a nearby hospital. He died three days later.

Officials said a cause of death has not been determined.

The department conducted an internal investigation that wrapped up Friday, ultimately ending with five officers being fired. They were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

In a statement, Police Chief CJ Davis said the officers violated multiple department policies including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid. He said last week that video of the arrest would be released after the internal investigation and after the family had seen it, but the exact timing wasn't immediately clear.

On Monday, Memphis Fire Department also confirmed that two MFD personnel who were involved in taking care of Nichols have been relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice also are investigating this case.

Nichols' family would like to see the officers involved in the arrest face criminal charges.

"The fight's just beginning. At this point now, it's seeking justice. This fight is just beginning. It's just the beginning stages of this fight," said Nichols' parents in a statement.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, said the city has been on edge since the arrest, which he called "horrific and senseless."

"The release of the tape may certainly aggravate the feelings of hurt, sorrow and embarrassment that we are all feeling," Parkinson said. "However, the need for transparency is vitally important in all cases of police involved deaths."

Van Turner, president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, also acknowledged that Memphis appears tense as it waits for the video. But he praised the city and the police department for taking "quick action" in firing the officers.

"We will continue to monitor and support a fair and just resolution to this matter," Turner said. "We join the call for peaceful protests as we all work towards making sure that proper measures are put in place to prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future."

Attorneys Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent Nichols' family, issued a statement Friday saying they support the department's decision to fire the officers.

"This is the first step towards achieving justice for Tyre and his family. They must also be held accountable for robbing this man of his life and his son of a father," they said.

The attorneys said they "will continue to demand transparency and accountability" and plan to review video footage to seek additional clarity about the circumstances that led to Nichols' death. The lawyers planned a news conference for later Monday with the family.

As for the timing of the video's release to the public, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said the law "places limits on such video release, and that we have to make sure we do so without compromising our ability to arrive at justice in this case."

"I ask for your patience as we gather all necessary information so that we don't compromise the investigation or any possible future prosecution," Mulroy said in a statement.

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Tyre Nichols case: 5 former Memphis police officers charged with second-degree murder

The five former Memphis Police Department officers fired following the death of Tyre Nichols have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and other charges.

Jail records show Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith turned them in and are now in custody at the Shelby County Jail in Tennessee.

The former officers are each facing seven felony charges, including one count of second-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of official oppression and two counts each of aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct.

In Tennessee, second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison, according to The Associated Press.

Memphis Police say they pulled over Nichols on Jan. 7 around 8:30 p.m. for "reckless driving" near Raines Road and Ross Road in Memphis. 

A "confrontation occurred" during the stop, at which point Nichols ran away from police on foot. Officers pursued the 29-year-old and attempted to apprehend him, police said. 

"While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended," MPD said. "Afterward the suspect complained of having shortness of breath, at which point an ambulance was called to the scene."

Authorities transported Nichols to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, and he died three days later on Jan. 10, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday night from lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, they said following an independent autopsy on Nichols' body carried out by a "highly regarded, nationally renowned forensic pathologist," preliminary findings indicated that "Tyre suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."

They also said Nichols' "observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on Jan. 7, 2023."

Authorities have not yet released the video of the traffic stop involving Nichols, or the autopsy.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis gave an address Wednesday evening and called Nichols' death "heinous, reckless and inhumane," cautioning people not to react violently after seeing the footage.

"This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual," Davis said, saying the five officers and others who were involved in his death "failed our community, and they failed the Nichols family. That is beyond regrettable."

"In the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves," she added. "I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outraged by the disregard for basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video."

The officers were fired for using excessive force and violating other policies. Two Memphis Fire Department personnel also have been fired following Nichols' death.

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