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5 former officers charged with federal crimes in the death of Tyre Nichols


A federal grand jury in Memphis, Tennessee, returned an indictment Thursday charging five former Memphis Police Department (MPD) detectives with federal civil rights, conspiracy, and obstruction offenses resulting in the death of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7.

The five former officers are now facing federal civil rights charges in the tragic beating death of Nichols. 

This legal action is ongoing alongside their defense against second-degree murder charges in state courts arising from the same incident. The individuals indicted in the U.S. District Court in Memphis include Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, and Justin Smith.

The four-count federal indictment alleges the following charges against each of the officers:

  • Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law: This charge is based on the assertion that excessive force was used, and the officers failed to intervene when necessary. It also involves a claim of deliberate indifference.
  • Conspiracy to Witness Tampering: The indictment includes a charge of conspiring to tamper with witnesses.
  • Obstruction of Justice Through Witness Tampering: The officers are accused of obstructing justice by tampering with witnesses related to the case.

In a statement, US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, “The country watched in horror as Tyre Nichols was kicked, punched, tased, and pepper sprayed, and we all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say ‘I’m just trying to go home.’ Officers who violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect undermine public safety, which depends on the community’s trust in law enforcement. They dishonor their fellow officers who do their work with integrity every day. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who betray their oath.”

The charges also list overt acts committed by the officers during the incident. One of the acts includes Haley and Mills taking off their body-worn cameras and setting them aside before gathering with the other officers to discuss the force used on Nichols and making statements such as “I thought when he wasn’t going to fall, we about to kill this man,” while emergency medical personnel were at the scene.

These new federal charges arise approximately nine months after the violent beating of Nichols by the five Memphis officers during a traffic stop that occurred on January 7 near his residence in Memphis. The five former officers were part of now disbanded MPD’s SCORPION Unit. They also face criminal court charges in Shelby County for second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and official oppression. 

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