All five former Memphis Police officers who were charged with the murder of Tyre Nichols pleaded not guilty in court on Friday.
Nearly one month after multiple officers were seen on video assaulting the 29-year-old Black man who later died at a hospital, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith appeared in front of Judge James Jones.
The former officers are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. All of the former officers were fired after an internal investigation was conducted by the Memphis Police Department and a separate investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Charges were later filed by the Shelby County District Attorney’s office.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, were also present in court with their attorney Ben Crump.
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Nichols’ death set off a firestorm of criticism and outrage after footage was released showing the man being beaten and renewed calls for police reforms that protect citizens, especially in Black communities.
A sixth Memphis Police officer, Preston Hemphill, who was seen on body-camera video tasing Nichols during the original traffic stop and then saying, “I hope they stomp his (expletive)” as Nichols was being chased by the other officers, was also fired after an investigation into Nichols’ death.
Three Memphis Fire Department employees were also fired and two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies were suspended in connection with the events that unfolded the night Nichols died.
The former officers are scheduled to appear in court again on May 1.
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