Five former Memphis police officers involved in the beating death of Tyre Nichols were indicted Tuesday (Sep. 12) by a federal grand jury, ABC News reports.
The ex-officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. – face a four-count indictment, including the use of excessive force and lying to cover up their actions.
Shocking police bodycam video shows several officers pulling Nichols, 29, from his vehicle during a Jan. 7 traffic stop for alleged reckless driving and brutally beating him for no apparent reason. Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old son, died three days later in a hospital. According to authorities, the traffic stop led to a “confrontation” and Nichols fled the scene on foot as he was pursued by police.
“Tyre Nichols should be alive today,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “It is tragic to see a life cut short at 29, with so many milestones unmet, so many words unsaid, so much potential unfulfilled."
The first count against the defendants alleges they used unreasonable force during the arrest. Under the second count, federal prosecutors say the ex-officers showed “deliberate indifference” to Nichols’ medical needs.
Count three alleges that all the defendants conspired to cover up their use of unlawful force. According to the final count, they committed obstruction by intentionally omitting some information, as well as providing false and misleading information to supervisors tasked with writing reports about the arrest.
They face a life sentence if convicted on the first two counts of the federal indictment. Counts three and four each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison.
"These federal charges reflect the Justice Department’s unwavering commitment to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of every American and preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system," Clarke said. "We stand ready to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their misconduct because no one is above the law in our country.”
In a separate state prosecution, the officers pleaded not guilty in February to second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression.
In July, the Justice Department launched a pattern or practice investigation of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department to determine whether the police systemically uses excessive force and discriminates against Black residents.