Five former Memphis police officers who were fired over Tyre Nichols’ death have been charged with second-degree murder, The Associated Press reports. Nichols, a Black motorist, died three days after a violent confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop in early January.
“This was wrong. This was criminal,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said during a press conference as the charges were announced.
Taddarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III 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, according to Shelby County criminal court records.
The five former officers found to be “directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols” were fired last week.Other officers, according to Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, are still being investigated for violating department policy.
Under Tennessee law, second-degree murder is a class A felony that carries a term of 15 to 60 years in prison.
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, told the Associated Press that he and Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, discussed the second-degree murder charges and are “fine with it.” They had pushed for charges of first-degree murder.
“There’s other charges, so I’m alright with that,” he said.
Wells also said he was “ecstatic” that authorities have moved quickly in the case.
Nichols’ family has seen video footage of his arrest, but it hasn’t been released to the public. Local authorities have promised to release it this week or next week.
Davis urged city residents to protest peacefully once the video of the arrest is made public.
“This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual,” Davis said in a video statement released online Wednesday.
According to Ben Crump, the attorney for Nichols’ family, police video showed Nichols — a 29-year-old FedEx worker and father — being shocked, pepper-sprayed, and restrained when he was pulled over for a traffic stop near his home.
The family’s legal representatives said that officers beat Nichols for three minutes in a “savage” encounter similar to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles of Rodney King.
Family members say that the police who stopped Nichols were driving unmarked cars and beat him until he suffered cardiac arrest and kidney failure.
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