MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Four former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal civil rights charges in the brutal beating and death of Tire Nichols following a traffic stop nine months ago. .
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley Desmond Mills and Justin Smith were led by US Marshals into a courtroom in handcuffs and leg restraints for their first hearing since they were charged Tuesday with using excessive force. force and conspiring to lie about the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols as he screamed at his mother steps from his home.
Magistrate Judge Charmiane G. Claxton accepted the not guilty plea from attorneys for the four officers, who were fired for violating Memphis Police Department policy after Nichols died three days after he was punched, kicked and beaten with a beating stick caught. in the police video.
A fifth officer who was also fired and indicted by a federal grand jury, Emmitt Martin, is scheduled to make his first appearance Thursday. All five are accused of deprivation of rights under color of law by excessive force and failure to intervene, and by willful indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering; and obstruction of justice by witness tampering.
The five officers were also charged in state court with second-degree murder and other alleged crimes in the beating death of Nichols, one of several violent encounters between police and Black people that have sparked of protests and renewed debate about police and police brutality. reform in the US
The five former officers, all Black like Nichols, have pleaded not guilty to state charges as well.
Claxton ordered the four officers who appeared in court Wednesday to be released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, which means they don’t have to pay any money unless they fail to appear in court.
Kristen Clarke, who heads the US Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said at a news conference Tuesday that the five former officers used excessive force, failed to advise medical personnel about the Nichols’ misdeeds, and conspired to cover up their misconduct.
The officers were part of a crime-fighting team that officers disbanded after Nichols’ death. However, members of the Scorpion unit were transferred to other teams.
The indictment says the officers failed to tell dispatchers, their supervisors and emergency medical technicians that they knew Nichols had been hit repeatedly, trying to cover up their use of force and protect their self from criminal liability.
Additionally, the indictment alleges instances where officers used their body cameras to limit what evidence could be obtained at the scene: Martin moved his body camera where it would not show video of the beating; Haley and Smith only activated theirs after the attack; and Haley and Mills took theirs when emergency medical personnel were on the scene.
At the scene of the arrest, the officers then discussed hitting Nichols with “straight haymakers,” even as Nichols’ condition worsened and he became unresponsive, the indictment said. Nichols can be seen on police video on the ground, lying in a police car.
The indictment accuses the officers of gathering after the beating and saying, among other things, that “I thought if he didn’t fall, we were going to kill this man.” The indictment did not specify which officer made the statement.
The indictment also alleges that the officers falsely stated that Nichols actively resisted arrest at the scene of the beating and that he removed Smith’s protective vest and pulled the officers’ duty belts.
Lawyers for several former officials said the federal indictment was not a surprise. Blake Ballin, Mills’ attorney, told reporters outside the federal courthouse that Mills is taking the charges very seriously, and he looks forward to defending himself in court.
“It’s very scary and uncomfortable for someone who has dedicated his life to being a law enforcement officer and now finds himself on the other side of things,” Ballin said.
Top photo: Tire Nichols reminisces at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans before an NBA basketball game in January. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)
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