Five former Memphis Police Department officers are set to appear in court Friday for their arraignment on criminal charges connected to the January death of Tyre Nichols, whose brutal beating during a police traffic stop was seen on video.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Second-degree murder in Tennessee is considered a Class A felony punishable by between 15 to 60 years in prison.
Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was repeatedly punched and kicked by the officers charged following a traffic stop and brief pursuit on foot on January 7. Nichols was hospitalized after the beating and died three days later.
The five officers, who are also Black, were fired following an internal investigation and were indicted on January 26.
The following day, body camera videos and surveillance footage from the arrest were released, demonstrating the severity of the beating to the public and drawing widespread condemnation from residents and police officials alike. Protesters marched and vigils were held in Memphis and other major cities across the US, decrying the latest example of police brutality seen on video and calling for police reform.
The five charged officers were part of the department’s SCORPION unit, which was launched in 2021 to take on a rise in violent crime in Memphis. Shortly after the video footage of Nichols’ arrest was released, Memphis police announced the unit would be permanently deactivated.
“The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step,” the department said in a January 28 statement. “While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”
As the cases against the five officers move forward, fallout from the violent arrest continues for other members of law enforcement and first responders who were on the scene.
A sixth Memphis officer was fired but has not been charged, authorities said. Additional Memphis police officers may face further discipline, City Attorney Jennifer Sink told CNN last week.
Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies who were at the scene of the arrest were found to have violated department policies and suspended for five days each without pay, according to a sheriff’s office statement obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ.
Three Memphis Fire Department personnel were fired for their failure to promptly render emergency care to Nichols after the arrest, according to the fire department. In a letter to the Memphis City Council, Thomas Malone, president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association, defended their actions, saying they “were not given adequate information upon dispatch or upon arrival on the scene.”