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Five fired Memphis police officers charged with murder in death of Tyre Nichols: "This was wrong. This was criminal"

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5 former Memphis officers charged in deadly arrest of Tyre Nichols 03:17

Five fired Memphis police officers were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tyre Nichols, Tennessee authorities announced Thursday. Nichols died three days after a violent arrest by police earlier this month.

"This was wrong. This was criminal," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said during a press conference announcing the charges.

A grand jury handed down indictments against Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said.

5 former Memphis police officers charged in Tyre Nichols death

Mulroy said although the fired officers each played different roles in the death of Nichols, "they are all responsible."

Video footage of the arrest would be released Friday sometime after 6 p.m., Mulroy said. The footage has been shown to Nichols' family, but has not yet been made public.

Shelby County jail records show that, as of early Friday, only Haley remained in custody, on $250,000 bond. The others were all released after posting bond. Martin's was $350,000. The others' was $250,000. 

Ben Crump, the attorney representing Nichols' family, said police video the family viewed showed that Nichols — a 29-year-old FedEx worker and father — was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over for a traffic stop near his home.

Rausch said he saw the video and found it "absolutely appalling."

"Let me be clear: What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing," he said.

Special Report: 5 fired Memphis officers charged with murder of Tyre Nichols 26:02

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland thanked officials for moving swiftly to fire and indict the officers involved. 

"We have worked to get a resolution to these matters in record time because we take them extremely seriously," he said in a recorded statement on Thursday. 

"Since learning of this tragic event, transparency and swift methodical action have been our top priorities because the family of Mr. Nichols and our citizens deserve nothing less," Strickland said. "The actions of these officers were awful, and no one, including law enforcement, is above the law. I assure you we will do everything we can to keep this type of heinous act from happening again."

The mayor said that it was " clear that these officers violated the department's policies and training," and said that officials are working to ensure a situation like this does not occur again.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn "CJ" Davis made a plea to residents of the city to protest peacefully when video of the arrest is released. She has called the fired officers' actions that night "heinous, reckless and inhumane."

"This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual," Davis said in a video statement that was released late Wednesday on social media.

The five officers found to be "directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols" were fired last week, but Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. Nichols was Black, as are the five officers involved in the arrest.

Tyre Nichols
A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him on Jan. 17, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols was killed following a traffic stop with Memphis Police on Jan. 7. He died three days later, on Jan. 10. Adrian Sainz / AP

Court records don't list attorneys for Smith, Bean or Haley. Martin's lawyer, William Massey, confirmed that his client had turned himself in. He and Mills' lawyer, Blake Ballin, said Thursday at a press conference that they have still not seen footage of the arrest. The attorneys stressed that despite how emotional the case is, their clients are entitled to due process. 

"There are numerous allegations made against the officers and I watched the conference, and Mulroy did a nice job presenting his side to the media and he asked for justice and we agree," Massey said. "Justice means following the law. And the law says no one is guilty until the jury says they're guilty."

Massey said that none of the officers intended to kill Nichols. 

"No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die," Massey told reporters. "No one. No one. Police officers have a difficult and dangerous job. It's probably one of their worst fears that something like this would happen on their watch."

Ballin said the arrest is causing Mills' family "a lot of anxiety and pain," and said that he is concerned about Mills' and the community's safety. Mills was posting bond and was in the process of being released from jail, Ballin added. 

Ballin defended Mills' character and said his client was "devastated" by the charges against him. 

"I've spent some time with Mills," Ballin said. "He is known locally and back where he's from in Connecticut. He's a gentle father. He's devastated to be charged with a crime. To be accused of something like this hurts him on another level."

Second-degree murder is a class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, told the AP by phone that he and his wife RowVaughn Wells, who is Nichols' mother, discussed the second-degree murder charges and are "fine with it." They had pushed for first-degree murder charges.

"There's other charges, so I'm all right with that," he said.

Wells, who earlier this week called for any protests that happen when the video is released to remain peaceful, also said he is "ecstatic" that authorities have moved quickly in the case.

Crump and Antonio Romanucci, another attorney for the family, issued a statement praising the charges. 

"The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre," they wrote. "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."

Nichols was returning home from a suburban park, where he had taken photos of the sunset. The legal team said officers beat Nichols for three minutes in a "savage" encounter reminiscent of the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

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