Five ex-Memphis, Tennessee police officers pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges related to the January fatal arrest of Tyre Nichols who was beaten to death after being pulled over by US law enforcement.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. face charges in state court of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. The former officers are set to return to court May 1.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Hagerman told reporters outside of the courtroom that Friday’s hearing “was just the first court date for these defendants.” He emphasized that further investigations into Nichols’ death are ongoing.
In video released last month of the January 7 beating, Nichols, 29, was seen being viciously pummeled by the five officers, who like Nichols are Black. The video showed Nichols being kicked, punched, pepper-sprayed and hit with a police baton as he laid nearly lifeless on the ground during the brutal beating.
Nichols died three days later in the hospital where he was receiving treatment.
Two additional officers, Preston Hemphill and another unnamed MPD officer, were “relieved of duty” for their involvement in the incident. Three Memphis Fire Department workers were also fired for their response to Nichols’ beating.
Nichols was laid to rest on February 1 in a funeral attended by his family and friends, Vice President Kamala Harris and leading civil rights leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton who vowed, “We’re going to change this country because we refuse to keep living under the threat of the cops and the robber.”