Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder, in a grand jury indictment over the beating death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who had been pulled over for a traffic stop.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy made the announcement in a press conference on Thursday.
On January 7, Nichols was stopped by police on suspicion of reckless driving but the stop turned violent. Officials have not revealed many details but said the public will be able to come to their own conclusions when video of the stop is released. Ben Crump, attorney for Nichols' family who has already seen the footage, said Nichols was shocked, pepper-sprayed, and restrained during the incident. Prosecutors have included kidnapping charges, saying that at some point the legal stop became an illegal detention.
David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, called what he saw on the video "appalling" and said what he saw did not reflect "proper policing."
This combo of booking images provided by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office shows, from top row from left, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, bottom row from left, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. The five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop, records showed Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (Shelby County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Police body cam footage of the beating is expected to be released no earlier than Friday evening, according to Mulroy.
The five are facing a number of charges in addition to second-degree murder, including aggravated kidnapping involving the possession of a weapon, aggravated assault resulting in bodily injury, official misconduct through unauthorized exercise of power, official misconduct through failure to act, and official oppression.
The family said they are "fine" with the charges. Though they had sought first-degree murder, they are satisfied that there are a number of charges in addition to the second-degree murder charges.
"While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible," Mulroy said.
President Joe Biden released a statement following the announcement of charges and sent condolences to Nichols' family. He also noted that this latest police killing is another chance for the nation to seek accountability from those tasked with protecting the people.
"To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect," the statement said.
Nichols died three days after the beating on January 10, and according to a preliminary autopsy, there had been extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating. All five men have since been fired from the Memphis Police Department.