At their first court appearance in Memphis, the five former police officers accused of killing Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man brutally beaten during a traffic stop last month, pleaded not guilty.
All five ex-officers- Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, and Desmond Mills Jr.- were arrested and indicted last month on felony charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
The five men were all released on bond on Friday and were present only briefly as their lawyers entered pleas on their behalf. Tyre Nichols' parents sat in the courtroom gallery alongside their attorney, Ben Crump.
"Memphis, and the whole world, needs to see that what's right is done in this case," Paul Hagerman, an assistant district attorney, said after the hearing. "We believe it's important that everybody who did something criminal is brought to justice in this case."
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols' mother, called Friday's hearing "the beginning of the process of justice," and said she and the family would continue fighting to the end.
"They didn't even have the courage to look at me in my face after what they did to my son," she said during their courtroom session. "So they're going to see me at every court date, every one, until we get justice for my son."
The five officers filmed beating Nichols, all members of a specialized police team within the Memphis Police Department that has been discontinued, were promptly fired and indicted. Despite not being criminally charged, a sixth officer participated in the initial traffic stop and was terminated from the department.
In spite of being entirely caught on camera, the five officers who beat Tyre Nichols to death pled not guilty, which speaks to the cavalier attitude law enforcement has when it comes to murders they commit on camera since they know they will not be held accountable for them. #AbolitionNow