Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, and Justin Smith were indicted Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Memphis. The four-count indictment charges that each of them willfully deprived Nichols of his constitutional rights through “excessive force and failure to intervene and through deliberate indifference, conspiracy to witness tampering and obstruction of justice through witness tampering.”
The former officers also face criminal charges in Shelby County, Tennessee, for “second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and official oppression.” Each former officer has pleaded not guilty to the state charges against them.
“It is tragic to see a life cut short at 29, with so many milestones unmet, so many words unsaid, and so much potential unfulfilled,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, at a press conference on Tuesday. “Tyre Nichols should be alive today.”
The new charges follow Nichols’ violent beating by police officers during a traffic stop near his Memphis home nine months ago on January 7th. The 29-year-old father died at a hospital three days later. The former officers have pleaded not guilty to state charges of second-degree murder and other alleged offenses concerning the case.
The department fired the former officers involved at the end of January. They were all members of the SCORPION unit, which was quickly deactivated after Nichols’ death.
“We all know that police officers have challenging jobs and that most officers carry out their jobs with honesty, dedication, and integrity. But 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 beating of Nichols, shown on police video, was one in a series of violent interactions between police and Black people that provoked protests and rekindled debate about police brutality and reform in the United States.
In July, the Justice Department announced an inquiry into how Memphis Police Department officers use force and make arrests, one of numerous “patterns and practices” investigations it has conducted in other cities around the country.
At the time, Clarke explained that the decision was not based on a single incident, nor limited to one unit, but on interviews with residents and community members who reported numerous incidents involving police officers. Clarke said Tuesday that the federal charges are independent from the inquiry into the police department.