As investigations continue into the deadly police beating of a 29-year-old Black man in Memphis, public servants involved in Tyre Nichols’ traffic stop and brutal confrontation are facing repercussions – some as severe as murder charges – and more fallout is possible.
“We are looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident,” Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy told CNN days after release of public body camera and surveillance footage in the January 7 encounter. “We’re looking at everybody.”
Five Black officers pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on February 17 after they were fired January 20, then indicted on seven counts each, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct. They are due back in court on May 1.
A sixth officer, who is White, was fired and disciplined for violating policies in the Nichols case and a seventh officer, who has not been publicly identified and was originally suspended pending an investigation, has been fired, Memphis Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink told a city council committee on March 7.
In total: Seven police officers were fired, three were suspended, one retired and two had their investigations dropped as a result of the probes, she said.
The officer who retired likely would have been terminated, Sink said, but didn’t elaborate on what that officer was accused of doing.
Nearly two months after five former officers were charged with second-degree murder, three of them were recommended for decertification on March 24. Official decertification would bar them from working in law enforcement in the state. The former officers will have 30 days to appeal or comply with the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission’s order. A fourth former officer who voluntarily surrendered his license cannot appeal and will no longer be allowed to work in law enforcement in Tennessee effective immediately, a POST spokesman told CNN March 24.
Nearly two months after the incident, the Department of Justice said it will perform a review of the Memphis Police Department, the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services announced March 8.
Initially, officials were expected March 8 to release about 20 more hours of footage from the night of the beating in early January, along with some records from the city’s now-finished internal probe into 13 police officers and four fire department personnel, a Memphis official said. Now, that release is on hold amid a legal challenge from one of the former officers charged in Nichols’ death.
A hearing on the issue was set to take place March 8 after a motion was filed by the ex-officer’s attorney, Allison Fouche, a spokesperson for the Memphis mayor’s office, told CNN.
All the fired officers were part of the force’s SCORPION unit – created to tackle rising crime in the city and disbanded amid national outcry following Nichols’ death – the department has confirmed. Those charged are accused of assaulting another young Black man three days before the Nichols encounter, states a federal lawsuit filed February 7 that also alleges the city failed to prevent or address an alleged pattern of policing abuses in the SCORPION unit; the city didn’t immediately respond, and the department wouldn’t comment.
Further, the charged officers are accused of internal police misconduct and policy violations – including making false statements about Nichols’ arrest and bragging about the beating – that could result in bans from other state law enforcement agencies if more decertification request letters that detail the claims are granted.
None of the fired officers previously had been disciplined for excessive force, their personnel files show.
The DOJ review, requested by the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, and the city’s police chief, will cover “policies, practices, training, data, and processes related to MPD’s use-of-force, de-escalation, and specialized units,” according to a news release.
Beyond the six fired Memphis police officers, at least seven others will face discipline in the wake of Nichols’ death, Sink said February 7. The policy violations are not criminal, she said, adding, “The investigation is ongoing. There could be more.”
Potential charges “of false reporting” on the initial police report remain under scrutiny, as does every other person at the scene, the district attorney’s office spokesperson Erica Williams told CNN on February 1.
The city had previously said that three Memphis Fire Department personnel who responded to the scene – two emergency medical technicians and a fire lieutenant – were fired, though none was criminally charged. On March 7, Sink said a fourth fire department worker was suspended.
Additionally, two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies were suspended for five days each without pay for their parts in the case, leaders of those agencies have said.
Here’s what we know so far about those involved:
Bean, 24, was released on a $250,000 bond by January 27, Shelby County Jail records show.
Bean joined the department as a recruit in August 2020 and was commissioned as an officer in January 2021, personnel records show. He was transferred to the SCORPION unit in August.
Bean’s lawyer, John Keith Perry, said after the arraignment his client was “doing his job” at the time of the fatal encounter and that he has seen no information indicating a murder was committed.
No previous disciplinary action involving Bean is in the personnel files reviewed by CNN.
Bean was initially recording his encounter with Nichols but removed his camera while the scene was still active, his decertification request letter states. He took the camera off his vest and left it on the trunk of a car before walking away to “have a conversation with other officers about the incident,” the letter says.
At one point, Bean and Officer Justin Smith held Nichols by the arms while other officers pepper-sprayed and “excessively struck” him with a baton, the department says. Bean and Smith also admitted to punching Nichols several times as they tried to handcuff him, the letters say.
Haley, 30, was released on a $350,000 bond on January 27, jail records show. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Haley joined the department as a recruit in August 2020 and was commissioned as an officer in January 2021, personnel records show.
Haley, one of the first officers on the scene who dragged Nichols out of his car, didn’t turn his camera on before the confrontation, according to the statement of internal charges.
Haley “forced (Nichols) out of his vehicle while using loud profanity and wearing a black sweatshirt hoodie over (his) head” and “never told the driver the purpose of the vehicle stop or that he was under arrest,” the documents say.
In the following moments, Haley pepper-sprayed Nichols directly in the eyes, then he and Officer Emmitt Martin III kicked him on the ground as he was being handcuffed, the documents say.
The documents do not clarify whether Haley turned on his camera the second time he encountered Nichols, who was confronted by officers again after he fled on foot.
The POST commission, which is responsible for training and enforcing standards for all local police departments in the state, voted to proceed with decertification for Haley and two other officers on March 24.
Haley “was found to be in violation of personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty, excessive unnecessary force, compliance with regulations . .. and information concerning police business,” Memphis police investigator Monique Williams told the commission board March 23, while recommending Haley’s decertification.
Haley admitted to investigators he took cell phone photos of a beaten Nichols and texted one to others, the decertification request letters that became public February 7 show.
“On your personal cell phone, you took two photographs while standing in front of the obviously injured subject after he was handcuffed,” stated the document sent to the POST commission and published online by CNN affiliate WMC. “(Y)ou admitted you shared the photo in a text message with five (5) people,” with a sixth recipient identified later.
“I have not seen the decertification letter,” Haley’s attorney Michael Stengel told CNN.
Haley in November 2021 got a written reprimand for failing to document his role in the detention that February of a suspect who said she suffered a dislocated shoulder as she was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car by Haley and another officer. Haley was not charged with excessive force; the other officer got a sustained complaint for “excessive/unnecessary force” and resigned, internal police records show.
A supervisor at the time called Haley “a hard-working officer (who) routinely makes good decisions” and said he was “sure that this was a limited event,” records show.
Before that, Haley had been a defendant in a 2016 federal civil suit in which a Shelby County Correctional Center inmate claimed to have been beaten and had his civil rights violated. The lawsuit was dismissed, which Haley requested, records show. CNN has reached out to Haley’s attorneys in the suit.
In the case, Haley was among three correctional officers said to have accused the plaintiff of trying to flush contraband and taken them to a restroom to be searched, court records show. “Haley and (a co-defendant) hit (plaintiff) in the face with punches,” the complaint states. The inmate then was picked up and slammed face-first into a sink by a third correctional officer, then thrown to the floor, after which the inmate allegedly “blacked out” and woke up in a medical unit, it states.
Haley and another correctional officer acknowledged searching the inmate after they “observed smoke” and the attempted flush, according to their motion to dismiss. Haley denied the other allegations, it shows.
Emmitt Martin III
Martin, 30, was released on a $350,000 bond by January 27, jail records show.
“Justice means following the law, and the law says that no one is guilty until a jury says they’re guilty,” his attorney William Massey said on January 26, adding, “No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die.”
Martin joined the department in 2018, according to personnel files.
Martin, who was also one of the first officers on the scene and dragged Nichols out of his car, didn’t turn his camera on before the confrontation, according to his statement of internal charges.
The documents do not clarify whether Martin turned on his camera the second time he encountered Nichols. He “at some point” took his camera off and put it in his car, Martin’s letter says.
In the following moments, after Nichols was pepper-sprayed, Martin and Haley kicked him on the ground as he was being handcuffed, the documents say.
The POST commission voted to proceed with decertification for Martin on March 24.
“In the matter of Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith, in addition to the same violations as Haley, Martin and Smith were also found to be in violation of duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct during an internal investigation,” police investigator Williams said March 23.
In March 2019, Martin got a three-day suspension without pay after a loaded revolver was found in the back of his police car following a shift in which he transported prisoners, the records show. And he got a one-day suspension without pay after failing in September 2020 to file a report on a domestic dispute after a complainant requested such a filing.
Martin also earned overall praise on performance evaluations. His 2021 performance “exceeds expectations” in reliability, compatibility, work attitude and dealing with the public, personnel records show. He “uses good judgement” and “is a three-year officer performing on the same level as more mature seasoned officers,” the files said.
Desmond Mills Jr.
Mills, 32, was released on a $250,000 bond on January 26, according to jail records.
Formerly a jailer in Mississippi and Tennessee, Mills is a “respectful father” who was “devastated” to be accused in Nichols’ killing, his attorney Blake Ballin said, adding videos of Nichols’ traffic stop “produced as many questions as they have answers.”
“Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills’s individual actions; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see when he arrived late to the scene; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see after he was pepper sprayed; and on whether Desmond’s actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident,” Ballin told CNN on January 28 in a statement.
Mills “is remorseful that he is attached to anything like this, that he is involved or connected to the death of somebody who – whose life should not have been taken. That is devastating to him,” Ballin told “CNN This Morning” on January 27.
After the February 17 arraignment, Ballin said the public should be patient and cautious in judging his client.
“Let’s not forget that my client is a Black man in a courtroom in America, which is a country where Black people are incarcerated at five times the rate of White people,” Ballin said. “Much has been said about the ways that the system has failed Mr. Nichols. I will work tirelessly to make sure that the system does not fail Mr. Mills and that a fair outcome is achieved.”
Mills, who surrendered his police certification in late March, had his decertification approved by the POST commission on March 24 and is “no longer certified to be an officer from Tennessee,” a commission spokesman told CNN.
Mills joined the department as a recruit in March 2017, personnel files show.
Mills was initially recording his encounter with Nichols but removed his camera while the scene was still active, his letter states. Mills took his vest off entirely, leaving it on another car with the camera still attached, his decertification request letter says.
The officer also failed to immediately provide aid in the critical moments after the beating or when medical personnel asked that Nichols’ handcuffs be removed, the documents say.
Mills knew Nichols had been “pepper sprayed, tased, struck with an ASP baton, punched, and kicked” but didn’t provide him aid, according to the documents. Instead, he admitted in his report he walked away to decontaminate himself from the chemical irritant spray, his letter says.
Mills got a reprimand in 2019 for not filing a form after using physical force during an arrest to take a woman “to the ground so that she could be handcuffed,” the records show. Mills was “trying to assist the other officers to gain control of the young lady,” he said at a hearing, a summary states.
At a separate hearing about equipment handling, Mills’ supervisor described him as “energized and a hard worker” who had “learned his lesson” after dropping his personal digital assistant, records show.
Smith, 28, was released on a $250,000 bond on January 26, jail records show. His attorney did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Smith joined the department as a recruit in March 2018, personnel files show.
In a sworn affidavit, Smith explained that he called for medical help and even tried to assist Nichols at one point. This represents the first account to emerge describing what an accused officer told investigators.
“Even though no one else requested medical assistance, because of the reported taser and chemical spray, I immediately made a radio call and indicated that medical should be sent to the area where the suspect was last seen to possibly render medical aid if the suspect was taken into custody,” he said.
CNN could not independently confirm that Smith made that call before arriving at the scene of the second encounter.
At that scene, at one point Smith and Bean held Nichols by the arms while other officers pepper-sprayed and “excessively struck” him with a baton, the department says. Smith and Bean also admitted to punching Nichols several times as they tried to handcuff him, the letters say.
At one point, Smith suggests he attempted to help Nichols at the scene of the second encounter.
“I informed my fellow officers to assist me in sitting the suspect against my squad car in order for the suspect to breath [sic] better,” the affidavit reads.
In the document, Smith did not deny failing to turn on his camera soon enough and says, “I did not intentionally fail to activate my body worn camera, but the safety of the other officers and myself was paramount,” he said.
The officers also failed to immediately provide aid in the critical moments after the beating or when medical personnel asked that his handcuffs be removed, despite Smith later admitting he has EMT training, the documents say.
The POST commission voted to proceed with decertification for Smith on March 24.
Police investigator Williams said Smith was found to be in violation of “duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct during an internal investigation.”
In July 2021, Smith got a two-day suspension without pay for a traffic accident that January in which he hit a pickup truck with his unmarked police vehicle, causing it to spin out and hit another car, according to a police report. Smith and other drivers got minor injuries.
Hemphill was fired and charged departmentally – not criminally – over policy violations related to personal conduct, truthfulness and compliance with regulations governing a stun gun, uniform, inventory and recovered property processing, the Memphis Police Department said February 3.
In his statement on a form regarding the incident, Hemphill said Nichols attempted to grab his partner’s duty weapon. The statement was part of a decertification letter Memphis Police sent to the POST commission and obtained by CNN on February 9.
“There is no video footage to corroborate that statement,” the letter said, adding Hemphill then provided a conflicting statement to investigators, telling them he “did not see the subject grab your partner’s gun.”
“While we disagree with Preston Hemphill’s termination from the Memphis Police Department, Mr Hemphill will continue to cooperate with all investigating agencies into the death of Tyre Nichols,” his attorney Lee Gerald said in a February 3 statement to CNN.
During the initial traffic stop, Hemphill fired a stun gun at the driver and, after Nichols ran from that site, said, “One of them prongs hit the bastard,” bodycam footage released by the city shows. Twice to another officer, he says: “I hope they stomp his ass.”
While on top of Nichols, Hemphill “used the assaultive statement, ‘Get on the f**king ground. Finna tase yo ass,’” according to the police decertification letter.
Hemphill “was never present at the second scene,” Gerald said January 30, adding his client activated his bodycam as required and “is cooperating with officials in this investigation.”
The footage does not show Hemphill at the second site, where the district attorney has said Nichols was beaten and suffered his serious injuries.
4 Memphis fire personnel
Memphis Fire Department personnel terminated over their response to the Nichols encounter are: emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker, the agency said January 30. CNN has reached out to all three.
A fourth fire department worker was suspended, Sink said March 7. She did not elaborate on or identify them by name.
Long had been at the agency since March 2020, while Sandridge was hired in September 2019 and Whitaker’s tenure began in March 1998, it said. Sandridge had been licensed in Tennessee since November 2015, and Long had been licensed since May 2020.
“Obviously, they did not perform at the level that we expect or that the citizens of Memphis deserve,” Memphis Fire Chief Gina Sweat said at a City Council meeting February 7.
The fire department immediately opened an internal review to see which EMTs were sent to the scene in the Nichols case but did not review video of the encounter until January 25, a department representative said at the council meeting.
The Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Division on February 3 suspended Long and Sandridge after they failed to give emergency care and treatment – including checking vital signs and doing a head-to-toe exam – to Nichols for 19 minutes, despite him “exhibiting clear signs of distress such as the inability to remain in a seated posture and laying prone on the ground multiple times,” the decision said.
The board ordered Long’s and Sandridge’s licenses “summarily suspended” until the conclusion of a contested case hearing against both or until otherwise ordered.
Long, Sandridge and Whitaker responded January 7 to a report of “a person pepper sprayed” and arrived to find Nichols “handcuffed on the ground leaning against a police vehicle,” Sweat said in a January 30 news release.
Fire officials’ investigation concluded “the two EMT’s responded based on the initial nature of the call … and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the chief said.
Whitaker stayed in the fire truck, the statement said.
After the EMTs arrived and before an ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side, pole-camera video released January 27 shows.
Two Fire Department staffers had been put on administrative leave pending an investigation before they were terminated, spokesperson Officer Qwanesha Ward told CNN at the time.
2 Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies
Two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office violated department regulations and have been suspended for five days each without pay, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ.
The suspensions of both deputies who were at the scene of Nichols’ beating became effective February 15, according to the release.
Deputy Jeremy Watkins and Deputy Johntavious Bowers were found to have failed to report to dispatch or their supervisor that they were on the scene, failed to have their body-worn camera in record mode and failed to report to dispatch they were leaving the scene, the department said in investigative reports obtained by WHBQ.
“Because I had concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols, I ordered this internal investigation,” Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said in the release.
CNN has reached out to Watkins and Bowers for comment.
The two deputies had been put on leave pending an investigation after the sheriff watched the video in the Nichols case on January 27.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the first name of city attorney Jennifer Sink.
CNN’s Nick Valencia, Mark Morales, Shimon Prokupecz, Nadia Romero, Jaide Timm-Garcia, Andy Rose, Eric Levenson, Melissa Alonso, Jamiel Lynch, Elizabeth Wolfe, Christina Maxouris, Nouran Salahieh, Curt Devine, Paul P. Murphy, Casey Tolan, Scott Glover, Pamela Kirkland, Mark Morales, Paradise Afshar and Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.