Just over eight months after Tyre Nichols‘ tragic passing, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is levying federal charges against the five former police officers accused of beating him to death.
This development is separate from the second-degree murder charges the state brought, which the men pleaded not guilty to.
The DOJ Hit The Former Officers With A Four-Count Indictment
According to a press release issued on Tuesday (Sept. 12), a DOJ spokesperson confirmed that the former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — “willfully deprived Nichols of his constitutional rights.”
Citing a press conference, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is quoted as acknowledging how the public “watched in horror as Tyre Nichols was kicked, punched, tased, and pepper sprayed” before succumbing to his injuries three days later.
“Officers who violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect undermine public safety, which depends on the community’s trust in law enforcement. They dishonor their fellow officers who do their work with integrity every day. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who betray their oath.”
The DOJ specifically hit them with a four-count federal indictment. The first count focuses on allegations that the defendants “violated Nichols’ right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer by assaulting him and by failing to intervene in the unlawful assault.”
Accusations of the men “willfully disregard[ing] medical need by failing to render medical aid” came in the second count.
As for the third and fourth counts, the DOJ focused on allegations that the former officers “conspired to cover up their use of unlawful force” by “intentionally omitting material information.”
The press release notes that the first two counts could deliver life sentences. As for the third and fourth counts, they each carry a maximum of 20 years behind bars.
In a statement to CNN, Blake Ballin — Desmond Mills’ defense attorney — declared, “We have been expecting this federal indictment.”
Nonetheless, he notes his client “maintains his innocence.” Ballin also acknowledged that the matter “adds another layer” into the mix.
“This is going to cause us to change gears a little bit. This adds another layer of things that we’ll have to look into and investigate.”
The Men Face State Charges While Memphis Deals With A $500M Lawsuit
This development follows the former officers getting hit with state charges, as The Shade Room previously reported.
In response to the five defendants pleading not guilty, Nichols’ mother — RowVaughn Wells — acknowledged, “We have to start this process of justice right now.”
On top of the state and federal charges against the former officers, Memphis and its police department are facing a $500 million civil lawsuit.