Five former Memphis police officers who were fired for their actions during the arrest of Tyre Nichols earlier this month were indicted on charges including murder and kidnapping, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday.
The former officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression, Mulroy said.
Second-degree murder is defined in Tennessee as a “knowing killing of another” and is considered a Class A felony punishable by between 15 to 60 years in prison.
The criminal charges come about three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was hospitalized after a traffic stop and “confrontation” with Memphis police that family attorneys have called a savage beating. Nichols died from his injuries on January 10, three days after the arrest, authorities said.
Police nationwide have been under scrutiny for how they treat Black people, particularly since the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the mass protest movement known as Black Lives Matter.
President Joe Biden said Thursday the killing is a “painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.”
Officials in Memphis have braced for potential civil unrest and have called for peaceful protests ahead of video of the fatal police encounter that’s expected to be publicly released Friday. The local school district also canceled all after-school activities Friday in the “interest of public safety.”
Police departments across the country – including in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Nashville and New York – told CNN they were either monitoring events or already had plans in place in case of protests.
Nichols’ family and attorneys, who were shown the video Monday, said it shows officers severely beating Nichols and compared it to the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King in 1991. Family attorney Antonio Romanucci told CNN the public should be “prepared” for a disturbing scene, saying it was like an “MMA fight” while Nichols was “helpless, he was defenseless, he was restrained.”
Nichols’ mother Ravaughn Wells, who said she hasn’t been able to watch it, said the video release will be “horrific” but urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” said Wells.
Two officers post bond
Three of the officers remained in custody at the Shelby County Jail Thursday night. Bond was set at $350,000 for Haley, 30, and Martin, 30, and $250,000 for Bean, 24, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Mills, 32, and Smith, 28, posted $250,000 bond Thursday evening and were released, according to jail records.
In a joint news conference Thursday afternoon, Blake Ballin, an attorney for Mills, and William Massey, Martin’s attorney, said they have not yet watched the video of the police encounter, which is expected to be released to the public Friday.
Ballin described Mills as a “respectful father,” who was “devastated” to be accused in the killing. Mills, previously a jailer in Mississippi and Tennessee. Ballin said he had not spoken to Mills specifically about Nichols.
Martin also intended to post bond and will also plead not guilty, his attorney said. “No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Massey said.
Other officers’ attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Video to be released Friday evening
Video of the fatal police encounter, a mix of body-camera and pole-cam video, is expected to be released publicly after 6 p.m. Friday, Mulroy said.
Speaking to CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday night, Mulroy said that while he can’t definitively say what caused the encounter to escalate, the video shows that the officers were “already highly charged up” from the start of the video and “it just escal