Former police officers pleaded not guilty to the murder of Tyre Nichols

Five former Memphis cops who beat Tyre Nichols to death following a traffic stop pleaded not guilty to his murder.

The Memphis Police Department identified the five dismissed officers as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith. All of the former cops are Black.

All five were members of an MPD 30-person specialized police unit known as SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods). 

SCORPION was assembled in October 2021 to address serious crimes, violent crimes. The unit and was disbanded in the wake of Tyre Nichols’s murder. SCORPION unit officers drove unmarked cars, and they dressed in plain clothes.

Each of the five former officers faces the charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. Second-degree murder in Tennessee is considered a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was repeatedly punched and kicked by the cops during a traffic stop and brief pursuit on foot on January 7. Nichols was hospitalized after the beating and died of his injuries three days later. 

The high-profile case is the latest in a series of deaths that have brought national attention to police use of force against people of color, particularly Black Americans.

Judge James Jones Jr. asked for patience and civility, stressing that “this case can take some time.â€

 â€œThis is the beginning of the process,†said Nichol’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, after the hearing. “I want every one of those police officers to look me in the face. They did not do that today.â€