Five former Memphis police officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their involvement in the deadly beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols that happened earlier this year. Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were all charged with one count each of excessive force and deliberate indifference alongside two counts of witness tampering.
The five men are also facing criminal court charges in Shelby County, Tenn., for second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. Each of the former officers has pleaded not guilty to the state charges against them.
The medical examiner's report ruled Nichols' manner of death as a homicide, citing blunt force injuries to his head, neck, torso, extremities, cortical contusions, hemorrhages, contusions, abrasions, and bruising.
The officers, who were part of the SCORPION unit, were deactivated by the Memphis Police Department department at the end of January.Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, stated that it was tragic to see a life cut short and that Tyre Nichols should be alive today.
"...when some officers violate the Constitution, when they use excessive force, when they ignore serious injuries inflicted on people they arrest, their actions erode the public's trust," said Clarke.
The federal charges followed the launch of a Department of Justice investigation into the City of Memphis and its police department for their use of force, searches, arrests, and potential discriminatory policing. The investigation aims to determine if there were any systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by the Memphis Police Department.
"The news today from the United States Justice Department that there will be criminal accountability on the federal level for Tyre's death gives his family hope as they continue to grieve his loss and inspire change in his honor," Crump and Romanucci said in a statement to NPR after the federal indictment was filed.