MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Five former Memphis police officers are now facing federal civil rights charges in the beating death of Tyre Nichols as they continue to fight second-degree murder charges in state courts arising from the killing.
Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith were indicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Memphis. The four-count indictment charges each of them with deprivation of rights under the color of law through excessive force and failure to intervene, and through deliberate indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering, and obstruction of justice through witness tampering.
The new charges come nine months after the violent beating of Nichols by police officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop near his home in Memphis. Nichols died at a hospital three days later, and the five officers have pleaded not guilty to state charges of second-degree murder and other alleged offenses in connection with the case.
Blake Ballin, an attorney representing Mills on the state criminal charges, said the federal indictment “is not unexpected” and Mills will defend himself against the federal charges as he is in state court. There was no immediate response from attorneys for other defendants in the case.
Caught on police video, the beating of the 29-year-old Nichols was one in a string of violent encounters between police and Black people that sparked protests and renewed debate about police brutality and police reform in the U.S.
The Justice Department announced an investigation in July into how Memphis Police Department officers use force and conduct arrests, one of several “patterns and practices” investigations it has undertaken in other U.S. cities.
In March, the Justice Department said it was conducting a separate review concerning use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in the Memphis Police Department. Federal investigators also are looking specifically into Nichols’ arrest and death. And, Nichols’ mother has sued the city and its police chief over her son’s death.