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MPD Officers Fired for Use of Excessive Force and Other Violations While Arresting Tyre Nichols

Katie Riordan
Family and community members demonstrate demanding the release of police body camera footage from Tyre Nichols' arrest.

Following an internal investigation and administrative hearings, the Memphis Police Department on Friday fired five officers involved in the arrest of Tyre Nichols, who died days after the encounter.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx employee, was pulled over on the night of Jan. 7 for reckless driving and was hospitalized after what the MPD described as two "confrontations" with officers. He died on Jan. 10.

MPD Chief CJ Davis called the death “tragic” in a statement and said officers were terminated for using excessive force, failing to intervene and failing to render aid.

“The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, every day,” she said.

Her statement did not specify which officer committed which violations. The city intends to make video footage of the incident public next week after Nichols’ family views it. They, along with their attorney, are expected to meet with officials on Monday.

MPD named the five officers: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

Both Bean and Haley joined the police force in August 2020, and Martin and Smith joined in March 2018. Mills was hired one year earlier in March 2017.

No other information was released about their records with the police force.

Photos Provided by the Memphis Police Department
Officers Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean.

The police department initially reported that a "confrontation" took place as officers approached Nichols’ car on Jan. 7. According to MPD, Nichols fled and another confrontation followed as he was apprehended. An ambulance transported him to hospital in critical condition after he complained of a shortness of breath, the department said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently examining the officers’ use of force. Findings from the agency’s investigation could serve as the basis for the Shelby County District Attorney to bring possible criminal charges.

The officers’ termination from the police force is a result of MPD’s own internal investigation.

The union that represents the city's officers declined to comment on the dismissal, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

"The citizens of Memphis, and more importantly, the family of Mr. Nichols deserve to know the complete account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed to it," Essica Cage-Rosario, the president of the Memphis Police Association, said in a statement.

Lawyers representing the Nichols’ family praised MPD's decision and said they will continue to push for accountability in the case.

“This is the first step towards achieving justice for Tyre and his family,” attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement. “In the coming days, we will review the video footage from this violent attack…providing the family and community more clarity into what led to the loss of this young man, father, and son."

The U.S Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that federal authorities have also opened an inquiry into possible civil rights violations during the arrest.

Nichols' friends and family have offered glimpses into his life over the past week, saying he was quick with a hug and a passionate skateboarder with a hearty appetite.

Katie is a freelance contributor to WKNO. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org