Five former Memphis police officers accused of brutally beating Tyre Nichols have been indicted on federal criminal charges of civil rights offenses, obstruction and witness tampering in connection with Mr. Nichols’s death in January, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.
The charges, brought in the Federal District Court in Memphis against each of the five men, include two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one related to excessive force and failure to intervene, and another related to deliberate indifference. It also includes a count of conspiracy to witness tamper and a count of obstruction of justice by tampering with a witness.
“The country watched in horror as Mr. Nichols was kicked, punched, tased and pepper sprayed — we all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say, ‘I’m just trying to go home,’” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a video statement, adding, “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who betray their oath.”
The five Black men — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — have already pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges at the state level. Police body camera and surveillance video captured them kicking and bludgeoning Mr. Nichols on Jan. 7 after a routine traffic stop. Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black FedEx worker, died a few days later.
The graphic footage provoked a national outcry and scrutiny over how officers with the Memphis Police Department, as well as the specialized force that the five men belonged to, used intimidation tactics and excessive force while on patrol. It roiled the city, prompting a series of administrative punishments and firings within the Police and Fire Departments.
The five men have since been fired and barred from working in law enforcement in Tennessee. Mr. Nichols’s family has also filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the former officers, the Police Department and the City of Memphis.