Officers charged in Tyre Nichols’ death plead not guilty
Washington, Feb 17 (EFE).- The five former police officers charged in last month’s death of 29-year-old African American man Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, pleaded not guilty Friday at their arraignment.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. are each charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
All five defendants are African American.
None of them spoke during the hearing, which was attended by Nichols’ mother and step-father, along with their attorney, prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.
“I want each and every one of those police officers to look me in the face. They’re going to see me at every court date – every one – until we get justice for my son,” the victim’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, said outside the courtroom after the arraignment.
“They couldn’t do that today. They didn’t have the courage to look me in the face,” she said.
“I’m really waiting for somebody to wake me up,” the grieving mother said. “But I also know that it’s not going to happen. I know my son is gone. I know I’ll never see him again. But we have to start this process of justice right now.”
On the night of Jan. 7, officers from the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) unit pulled Nichols over for what they said was reckless driving.
The traffic stop led to two confrontations between Nichols and the officers, who are seen on the video hitting and kicking him while he was lying on the ground in handcuffs.
Nichols died three days later.
Fired after an internal investigation, Bean, Haley, Smith, Martin and Mills were indicted on Jan. 26. The next day, the department released videos of the incident, which spurred nationwide protests against police violence.
The Memphis police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, who said she has seen no evidence justifying the initial traffic stop, ordered the SCORPION unit disbanded on Jan. 28.