MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guity Friday to murder and other charges in the death of Tyre Nichols last month, according to WHBQ-TV.
Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, three days after video released by police showed officers beating him with a baton and punching and kicking him during a traffic stop. Five officers were subsequently fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, official misconduct and official oppression: Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; Emmitt Martin III, 30; Desmond Mills, 32; and Justin Smith, 28.
Nichols’ mother says she feels ‘very numb’ after 1st court hearing for officers charged with killing son
Update 12:30 p.m. EST Feb. 17: Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told reporters that she felt “very numb” on Friday following the arraignment of five former Memphis police officers charged with murder in her son’s death.
“I’m waiting for this nightmare, basically, that I’m going through right now, I’m waiting for someone to wake me up, right?” she said at a news conference beside her husband and family attorneys. “I’m waiting for somebody to wake me up. But I also know that’s not going to happen. I know my son is gone.”
Wells said she plans to be at every court hearing for the suspects.
“I want each and every one of those police officers to be able to look me in the face,” she said. ”They haven’t done that yet. They couldn’t even do that today. They didn’t even have the courage to look at me in my face after what they did to my son, so they’re going to see me at every court date. Every one. Until we get justice for my son.”
Rodney Wells, RowVaughn Wells’ husband and Nichols’ stepfather, called Friday “a glorious day.”
“I had to be here today to make sure that justice gets done for our son,” he said. “This is the beginning of the process.”
Attorney says Bean ‘never did anything other than his job’ on Jan. 7
Update 12:10 p.m. EST Feb. 17: An attorney representing Bean told reporters that his client “was doing his job, no more no less,” on the night Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers.
“Tadarrius Bean never touched (Nichols) in any way, striking him. Period,” attorney John Keith Perry said following an arraignment on Friday. “Tadarrius Bean has the ability as a law enforcement officer to make a lawful arrest based off of a call coming in and so at this time, that’s where we’re standing right now. That Tadarrius Bean was doing his job at that time and he never ... struck (Nichols).”
Initial reports indicated that officers stopped Nichols on Jan. 7 on suspicion of reckless driving, though police Chief Cerelyn Davis has said that investigators have been unable to find evidence to substantiate the claim. Perry said his client was not one of the officers who initially stopped Nichols but that he arrived after the 29-year-old broke free from police and ran.
Asked if Bean regretted anything from the night of Nichols’ beating, Perry said, “I think at this point he probably regrets being a Memphis police officer that night because had he not been, he wouldn’t have been called to do his job.”
He added, “Any time you have a young man that dies it’s sad, and it’s a horrible thing, and we don’t want that to happen. But, as far as where we are as of right now, we’re trying to see whether or not a person can get justice the way that anybody else can, and that’s my job here.”
Officers to appear in court in May for next hearing
Update 10:15 a.m. EST Feb. 17: Judge James Jones asked people gathered in court Friday for their “continued patience” and “continued civility” as the case against the charged officers continues.
“We understand that there may be some high emotions in this case but we ask that you continue to be patient with us,” Jones said. “Everyone involved wants this case to be concluded as quickly as possible, but it’s important for you all to understand that the state of Tennessee as well as each one of these defendants have an absolute right to fair trial, and I will not allow any behavior that could jeopardize that right.”
The former officers are expected to next appear in court for a hearing on May 1.
5 officers plead not guilty to charges
Update 10:10 a.m. EST Feb. 17: Attorneys for the former officers entered not guilty pleas for their clients at an arraignment on Friday.
The officers themselves did not speak during the brief hearing.
Original report: All five are out on bond and expected to appear before Judge James Jones at 9 a.m. CST, WHBQ reported.
The former officers were indicted one day before authorities released body camera footage and surveillance video showing the confrontation between Nichols and police. The footage sparked condemnation from authorities, civil rights groups, residents and more.
Initial reports indicated that officers stopped Nichols on suspicion of reckless driving, though police Chief Cerelyn Davis has said that investigators have been unable to find evidence to substantiate the claim.
The videos released by police showed officers beating Nichols for at least two minutes and offering only minimal medical attention for more than 20 minutes afterward. Nichols was taken to a hospital, where he later died. An independent autopsy later found that Nichols died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” WHBQ reported.
Nichols’ death jolted Memphis, according to WHBQ, and prompted outrage nationwide. The arrested officers were part of the Memphis Police Department’s Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, or SCORPION, unit. Formed in October 2021, the unit was tasked with addressing violent crimes throughout the city.
It has since been disbanded.
In the aftermath of the beating, police also fired a sixth Memphis police officer seen on camera tasing Nichols, WHBQ reported. Several others officers could face discipline, according to officials. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been relieved from duty and three Memphis Fire Department employees have been fired.
Federal, state and local officials continue to investigate.
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