All five former Memphis police officers who were fired earlier this month for the arrest of Tyre Nichols have been charged with murder, according to Shelby County court records.
Taddarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. They were each charged with second-degree murder, aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of misconduct in public office and one count of oppression in public office, according to Shelby County Criminal Court records.
Their lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Live updates on the Tire Nichols case
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy will provide an update on the investigation at 2 p.m. Thursday. Authorities are expected to release video of the police arrest on Friday, a source close to the investigation told CNN’s Don Lemon.
The criminal charges come three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was hospitalized following a traffic jam and a “standoff” with Memphis police in what the family attorney described as a savage assault.
Nichols died of his injuries on January 10, three days after his arrest, authorities say.
The five Memphis police officers, who are also black, were fired for violating policies on excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to provide assistance, the department said. All had joined the department within the past six years, according to police. Other Memphis police officers are still being investigated for department policy violations related to the incident, the chief said.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis condemned the arrest of officers as a “failure of basic humanity” and called for peaceful protests before the video of the arrest was released.
“This isn’t just a professional failure. It’s a failure of another person’s fundamental humanity,” Davis said in a YouTube video Wednesday, her first comment on the arrest on camera. “This incident was heinous, reckless, inhumane and in the spirit of transparency, and you will see it for yourself when the video is released in the coming days.”
Second-degree murder is defined in Tennessee as “knowingly killing another person,” a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison. This charge is less serious than first-degree murder, which is defined as “premeditated and intentional,” but more serious than manslaughter, which is defined as “the willful or knowing killing of another person when sufficiently provocative to cause a Reasonable people act in irrational ways.”
Authorities have not released the video of the arrest publicly, but it was shown to Nichols’ family and attorney on Monday. They said the footage showed officers beating Nichols severely and compared it to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
The lawyers said Nichols “bleeded profusely from severe beatings,” citing preliminary results of an autopsy they commissioned.
Nichols’ arrest and subsequent death comes amid intense scrutiny of how police treat black people, especially since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police “Life Matters” mass protest movement.
Davis, the first black woman to serve as Memphis police chief, said she expected a public reaction to the video released in the coming days and urged citizens to remain nonviolent “in our anger and frustration.”
“I want our citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest to demand action and outcomes. But we need to make sure our communities are safe in the process,” Davis said. “None of these are calling cards to incite violence or destruction against our communities or against our citizens.”
Law enforcement agencies across the country are bracing for protests and potential unrest following the video’s release, multiple sources told CNN. The Association of Major City Chiefs, one of the leading professional law enforcement organizations, has held multiple conference calls with member agencies, according to Laura Cooper, the group’s executive director.
A law enforcement source familiar with the national coordination told CNN that Memphis police told participants in at least one of the calls to be on the lookout for rioting. D.C. law enforcement agencies have also called for a coordinated response and information sharing, the sources added.
Nichols is the father of a 4-year-old whose stepfather worked for FedEx for about nine months, his family said. He enjoys skateboarding at Shelby Farm Park, going to Starbucks for coffee with friends and taking pictures of sunsets, family members say, and has his mother’s name tattooed on his arm. He also suffers from a digestive disorder called Crohn’s disease, which meant he weighed only 140 to 145 pounds despite standing 6 feet 3 inches, his mother said.
On Jan. 7, he was pulled over by Memphis police officers on suspicion of reckless driving, police said in their initial statement about the incident. When officers approached the vehicle, there was a “confrontation” and Nichols fled on foot, police said. Officers pursued him and they had another “confrontation” before he was taken into custody, police said.
Nichols then complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where he died three days later, police said.
In Memphis police scanner audio, a person said there was “a male black man running” and called for “a boundary.” Another message said “he is fighting at this time”.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family, who viewed the video of the arrest on Monday, described it as a heinous police beating that lasted up to three minutes. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Nichols was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained, and family attorney Antonio Romanucci said he was kicked.
“He was defenseless the whole time. To those cops, he was a human piñata. There was three minutes of undisguised, undisguised, non-stop beatings on this little boy. That’s what we said in the video. See,” Romanucci said. “Not only violent, but brutal.”
Two members of the city’s fire department who were part of Nichols’ “initial patient care” were also relieved of duty, a fire spokesman said.Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced investigation The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have opened civil rights investigations into Nichols’ death.