Five Memphis officers face charges
Police brutality is often depicted throughout history and in movies as White cops misusing their power and abusing Black civilians for reasons unwarranted. What’s often unspoken about or doesn’t receive the same attention as the scenario mentioned above is Black cops misusing their power to abuse the ones who share the same skin color.
On Jan. 7, Tyre Nichols was stopped by police for a traffic infraction near his Memphis home. These stops usually end with a ticket given and everybody continuing their day, but for Nichols, this interaction would be his last moment of life.
A video captured from one of the police officer’s cams showed Nichols being brutally beaten with batons and receiving multiple kicks and punches from five officers while crying out for his mother and screaming that he couldn’t breathe. “We all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say ‘I’m just trying to go home,’” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a video statement after the indictment. “Tyre Nichols should be alive today.”
Nichols died three days later at a hospital after suffering blunt force injuries to his head, neck, torso, and extremities, multiple cortical contusions, and several hemorrhages throughout his body, including his brain. In addition, it says that he sustained numerous contusions, abrasions, and bruising to his body. Kristen Clarke, who leads the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said at the appearance that the five former officers used excessive force, failed to advise medical personnel about Nichols’ injuries, and conspired to cover up their misconduct.
“In our country, no one is above the law,” Clarke said, adding she met with Nichols’ mother and stepfather. On Sept. 12, Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, and Justin Smith, the five police officers involved in the murder of Nichols, were indicted in the U.S. District Court in Memphis. The four-count indictment charges 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 officers were also charged with second-degree murder and violating civil rights by Tennessee state court. All officers have pleaded not guilty to the state charges of second-degree murder.
“The news today from the United States Justice Department that there will be criminal accountability on the federal level for Tyre’s death gives his family hope as they continue to grieve his loss and inspire change in his honor,” said Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci; attorneys representing Nichol’s family in a statement to NPR after the federal indictment was filed.
Selwyn Jones, the co-founder of Hope929 Foundation, a charity focused on promoting civil rights and creating change in honor of his nephew George Floyd, said it was a righteous decision to incident the police officers on civil rights violation charges and other criminal offenses.
“We just want change,” Jones said. “This bill would have had Tyre Nichols, George Floyd, and Eric Garner home for Christmas. If you are in contact with police in any situation, you have a right to receive medical attention.”