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Multiple former Memphis police officers to be charged with murder in Tyre Nichols’ death, court records show

Memphis Police Dept. 26 Jan 23

Originally Published: 26 JAN 23 08:00 ET

Updated: 26 JAN 23 13:22 ET

By Jason Hanna, Chris Boyette and Eric Levenson, CNN

    (CNN) -- [Breaking news update, published at 1:22 p.m. ET]

Multiple former Memphis police officers are facing charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of Tyre Nichols, according to Shelby County criminal court records.

[Original story, published at 12:40 p.m. ET]

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy is set to provide an update on the investigation into the Memphis Police arrest of Tyre Nichols and his ensuing death at 2 p.m. CT Thursday that will include an announcement of criminal charges, a source close to the investigation told CNN's Don Lemon.

The source also said authorities expect to release police video of the stop on Friday.

One of the five officers fired after Nichols' death has been indicted and has surrendered, attorney William Massey said. Massey represents former officer Emmitt Martin III. The attorney said he does not yet know the nature of the charges.

Live updates on the Tyre Nichols case

The anticipated announcement of criminal charges comes about three weeks after Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was hospitalized after a traffic stop and "confrontation" with Memphis police that family attorneys have called a savage beating.

Nichols died from his injuries on January 10, three days after the arrest, authorities said.

The five Memphis police officers, who are also Black, were fired for violating policies on excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid, the department said. Other Memphis police officers are still under investigation for department policy violations related to the incident, the chief said.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis condemned the actions of the arresting officers as "a failing of basic humanity" and called for peaceful protests ahead of the release of video of the arrest.

"This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual," Davis said in a YouTube video Wednesday, her first on-camera comments about the arrest. "This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane, and in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves."

The prosecutor has said a decision on whether to file charges is forthcoming. An attorney representing one of the officers will hold a news briefing after the district attorney's update Thursday.

Authorities have not publicly released video of the arrest, but Nichols' family and attorneys were shown the video on Monday. They said the footage shows officers severely beating Nichols and compared it to the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King in 1991.

Nichols had "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating," according to the attorneys, citing preliminary results of an autopsy they commissioned.

Nichols' arrest and ensuing death comes amid heightened scrutiny of how police treat Black people, particularly since the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the mass protest movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Davis, the first Black woman to serve as Memphis police chief, said she anticipated the release of the video in the coming days would cause public reaction and urged citizens to be nonviolent amid "our outrage and frustration."

"I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest to demand action and results. But we need to ensure our community is safe in this process," Davis said. "None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens."

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are bracing for protests and potential unrest following the release of video, multiple sources told CNN. The Major Cities Chiefs Association, one of the leading professional law enforcement organizations, has convened several calls with member agencies, according to the group's executive director, Laura Cooper.

A law enforcement source familiar with the national coordination told CNN that in at least one of those calls Memphis police told participants to be on alert for unrest. The source added there was an additional call among Washington, DC, law enforcement agencies to coordinate responses and share information.

What led to Nichols' arrest and death

Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old, had worked with his stepfather at FedEx for about nine months, his family said. He was fond of skateboarding in Shelby Farms Park, Starbucks with friends and photographing sunsets, and he had his mother's name tattooed on his arm, the family said. He also had the digestive issue known as Crohn's disease and so was a slim 140 to 145 pounds despite his 6-foot-3-inch height, his mother said.

On January 7, he was pulled over by Memphis officers on suspicion of reckless driving, police said in their initial statement on the incident. As officers approached the vehicle, a "confrontation" occurred and Nichols fled on foot, police said. The officers pursued him and they had another "confrontation" before he was taken into custody, police said.

Nichols then complained of shortness of breath, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and died three days later, police said.

In Memphis police scanner audio, a person says there was "one male Black running" and called to "set up a perimeter." Another message says "he's fighting at this time."

Attorneys for Nichols' family who watched video of the arrest on Monday described it as a heinous police beating that lasted three long minutes. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Nichols was tased, pepper-sprayed and restrained, and family attorney Antonio Romanucci said he was kicked.

"He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video," Romanucci said. "Not only was it violent, it was savage."

The five officers who were terminated were identified by police as Martin, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith. All joined the department in the last six years, police said.

In addition, two members of the city's fire department who were part of Nichols' "initial patient care" were relieved of duty, a fire spokesperson said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced an investigation into Nichols' death and the US Department of Justice and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation.

Video of the incident could be released this week or next week, Mulroy told CNN's Laura Coates on Tuesday night, but he wants to make sure his office has interviewed everyone involved before releasing the video so it doesn't have an impact on their statements.

Prosecutors are trying to expedite the investigation and may be able to make a determination on possible charges "around the same time frame in which we contemplate release of the video," Mulroy said.

Nichols' family wants the officers charged with murder, Romanucci told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday evening.

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