State Watch

All five former officers in Tyre Nichols case plead not guilty

The five police officers indicted for the murder of Tyre Nichols all pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday. 

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. all face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

At their arraignment on Friday, the former Memphis police officers’s attorneys entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. The five are due back in court on May 1. 

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was the father of a 4-year-old son. All five of the officers indicted are also Black.

Nichols was stopped on Jan. 7 by Memphis police for reckless driving, though officials later said there was no evidence to substantiate the reckless driving claim. 

Nichols ran from police officers, who eventually caught up to him and kicked, punched and beat him with a baton for three minutes. Harrowing video footage of the beating was released to the public in late January. No aid was given to Nichols by the officers, and it was revealed that one of the officers texted photos of Nichols to friends after the beating. 

Nichols died from his injuries on Jan. 10. On Jan. 26, the five officers were indicted. 

Two additional officers were relieved of duty as well for their involvement in the Jan. 7 incident. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies, who were found to have violated department policies, were suspended for five days without pay, CNN reported.

Three Memphis Fire Department personnel were also fired for their failure to render emergency care to Nichols after the arrest.

NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement that the arraignment was a “crucial step” toward accountability.

Still, he said that as more details have emerged in the case “it becomes more clear that we are not dealing with a few rotten apples, we are dealing with a rotten tree.”

“This is not just about Tyre’s death,” Johnson said, citing George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among the “countless other Black lives that have been taken at the hands of a broken system.”

“The list of names lost to police violence is growing longer, yet the list of laws passed to address these situations remains empty,” he said.

Johnson pushed for elected officials to pass total police reform legislation, something that has stalled at the federal level despite President Biden signing an executive order banning federal law enforcement officers from using tactics like chokeholds. 

“This fight is far from over,” Johnson said. “We will not stop until Tyre’s family, and Black America gets the justice we deserve. We are done dying. As we move towards a trial, the NAACP will continue to support all efforts to hold those involved in Tyre’s tragic death accountable for their actions.” 

This story was updated at 12:52 p.m.

Tags Black Lives Matter Derrick Johnson Justin Smith Memphis Police Department police reform Tyre Nichols

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