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Federal grand jury indicts Memphis officers in deadly beating of Tyre Nichols

A federal grand jury has indicted the five former Memphis police officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols. 

The men — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — have been indicted on four different counts, including deprivation of rights, conspiracy to witness-tamper and obstruction of justice. 

Nichols was 29 years old when a traffic stop turned deadly Jan. 7 this year. 

Initially, Memphis police officers said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, though later it was released that there was no evidence to substantiate this claim. 

Video footage of the encounter showed Nichols enduring a brutal beating. He died of his injuries on Jan. 10.

Nichols’s death led to renewed calls for police reform, with President Biden, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and advocacy groups around the nation highlighting that Nichols had become one more in a long list of Black men and women who died from police encounters.

The Department of Justice announced in July that it was investigating the Memphis Police Department over potential constitutional and civil rights violations in the wake of Nichols’s death. 

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee said on Tuesday that the indictment is “an important step in ensuring that justice is done for Tyre Nichols.”

In a scathing rebuke of the five officers who have been charged, Attorney General Merrick Garland said officers who violate the civil rights of those they have sworn to protect “dishonor their fellow officers who do their work with integrity every day.”

“The country watched in horror as Tyre Nichols was kicked, punched, tased, and pepper sprayed, and we all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say ‘I’m just trying to go home,” Garland said. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division added that the indictments on Tuesday “reflect the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of every American.”

“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” she said. “It is tragic to see a life cut short at 29, with so many milestones unmet, so many words unsaid, so much potential unfulfilled.”

The officers also face state felony charges from the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, including one charge of second-degree murder, one charge of aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.

The five former officers all pleaded not guilty to the state charges. 

Attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, who are representing Nichols’s family, said the news “gives his family hope as they continue to grieve his loss and inspire change in his honor.”

“We applaud AG Garland and Assistant AG Clarke for their tireless efforts to create federal accountability for these officers who were selected to be part of the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION unit and savagely ended Tyre’s life, setting a critical precedent for accountability and justice,” the attorneys said in a statement.

Updated at 5:55 p.m.

Tags Ben Crump Joe Biden Justin Smith Kristen Clarke Memphis Police Department Merrick Garland police brutality

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