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5 ex-Memphis officers federally indicted in death of Tyre Nichols

The five former officers continue to fight second-degree murder charges in state courts


This combo of images provided by the Memphis, Tenn., Police Department shows, top row from left, officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, and bottom row from left, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

Memphis Police Department via AP, File

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Five former Memphis police officers were charged Tuesday with federal civil rights violations in the death of Tyre Nichols as they continue to fight second-degree murder charges in state courts arising from the killing.

Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith were indicted in U.S. District Court in Memphis. The four-count indictment charges each of 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 new charges come nine months after the Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis. Nichols died at a hospital three days later, and the five officers have pleaded not guilty to state charges of second-degree murder and other alleged offenses in connection with the case.

Blake Ballin, an attorney representing Mills on the state criminal charges, said the federal indictment “is not unexpected” and Mills will defend himself against the federal charges as he is in state court.

William Massey, the attorney for Martin, said the federal charges were expected. “They are not a surprise,” he said in a text message.

There was no immediate response from attorneys for other defendants in the case.

A hearing was set for Friday morning in the federal lawsuit filed by Nichols’ mother against the five officers, the city of Memphis and its police department. The officers then are scheduled to appear in state court Friday afternoon.

The Justice Department announced an investigation in July into how Memphis Police Department officers use force and conduct arrests, one of several “patterns and practices” investigations it has undertaken in other U.S. cities. In March, the Justice Department said it was conducting a separate review concerning use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in the Memphis Police Department.

Nichols’ mother has sued the city and its police chief over her son’s death.

The officers were part of a crime-suppression team known as Scorpion. Authorities disbanded the Scorpion unit after Nichols’ death, though members of the unit have been moved to other teams.