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5 ex-Memphis officers plead not guilty to federal charges in death of Tyre Nichols

The five former officers have pleaded not guilty to the state charges as well


Former Memphis Police officer Desmond Mills Jr., left, along with his attorney John Keith Perry leave the Odell Horton Federal Courthouse on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn.

Mark Weber, Daily Memphian

This story has been updated to reflect that a fifth former officer has entered a not guilty plea.

By Adrian Sainz
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A fifth former Memphis police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal civil rights charges in the death of Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop.

Emmitt Martin made his first federal court appearance since he and four former collagues were charged Tuesday with using excessive force and conspiring to lie about the Jan. 7 death of Nichols.

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Justin Smith and Martin were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of 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. Bean, Haley, Mills and Smith entered not guilty pleas Wednesday.

The five officers also have been charged in state court with second-degree murder and other alleged offenses. The five former officers have pleaded not guilty to the state charges as well.

Claxton ordered the release of the four officers who were present in court Wednesday on a $50,000 unsecured bond, which means that they don’t have to pay any money unless they fail to appear in court.

The indictment says the officers failed to tell dispatchers, their supervisor and emergency medical technicians they knew Nichols had been hit repeatedly, trying to cover up their use of force and shield themselves from criminal liability.

Additionally, the indictment alleges instances where the officers used their body cameras to limit what evidence could be captured at the scene: Martin moved his body camera where it wouldn’t show video of the beating; Haley and Smith activated theirs only after the assault; and Haley and Mills took theirs off when emergency medical personnel were on the scene.

The indictment also alleges the officers falsely stated Nichols actively resisted arrest at the scene and that he grabbed Smith’s protective vest and pulled on the officers’ duty belts.

Attorneys for several of the former officers said the federal indictment was no surprise. Blake Ballin, Mills’ lawyer, told reporters outside the federal courthouse that Mills is taking the charges very seriously, and he is looking forward to defending himself in court.

“It’s especially scary and uncomfortable for somebody who dedicated his life to being a law enforcement officer and now finds himself on the other side of things,” Ballin said.