After five former Memphis police officers were jailed and charged Thursday in a Jan. 7 traffic stop that resulted in the death of a motorist, a prosecutor said Thursday the officers “are all responsible.”
The former officers were taken into custody Thursday morning and in the afternoon were charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols, 29.
Authorities said Nichols fled on foot after being pulled over in a traffic stop and having an altercation with police. At a separate location, police said, Nichols was involved in another altercation with police, in which he was injured.
President Biden and others urged peaceful protests in the wake of Thursday’s developments.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said the five officers were part of an organized-crime unit called Scorpion.“The actions of all of them resulted in the death of [Tyre Nichols] and they are all responsible,” Mulroy said. “We also know the public is very concerned about whether they can see the video of this incident. The city will be releasing the video sometime after 6 p.m. Friday.”
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said, “I’m shocked and sickened by what I saw. I’ve seen the video. In a word, it’s absolutely appalling …. What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.”
To Nichols’ family, Rausch said, “We can’t imagine the pain you’re experiencing. But let me reaffirm that we are here to pursue truth and justice. This shouldn’t have happened.”
The family’s grief was also cited by Mulroy, who said, “We’re here today because of a tragedy that wounds one family deeply but also hurts us all … we understand the grief the family is experiencing right now.”
Mulroy said Nichols was pulled over in a traffic stop that may or may not have been legal.
The officers were fired last week by Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, who said the officers were found to be in violation of multiple police department policies in the beating death of Nichols.
The former officers jailed are Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith, Emmit Martin III, Tadarrius Bean and Demetrius Haley.
Martin, Smith and Bean face charges of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of acting in concert to commit aggravated assault and three counts of official misconduct.
Mills and Haley were charged with second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of acting in concert to commit aggravated assault and one count of official oppression.
Nichols family members said Tyre endured a horrific beating.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., urged peaceful protests in response to the killing and subsequent arrests.
In a statement on the House floor Thursday, he said, “Right now, much of the national media is looking at Memphis, as there was an awful killing of a 29-year-old African American man by five police officers within the last few weeks. The five police officers have been fired by the Police Department for violating their oaths…It could be a situation where people want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest actions of the Police Department, and people should. But they should be peaceful and calm.”
Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden released a statement on the case, saying, “Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death. As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. … It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”
In the statement, Biden again called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to his desk to sign.
The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a statement, saying the charges against the officers “are a necessary first step in delivering justice for Tyre and his family, although nothing will ever be enough to fill the void that his loss has left.”
But he added: “There is no point to putting a body camera on a cop if you aren’t going to hold them accountable when the footage shows them relentlessly beating a man to death. Firings are not enough. Indictments and arrests are not convictions.”
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