What we know about the public servants involved in Tyre Nichols' death

2/1/2023, 3:58 p.m.
As investigations continue into the deadly police beating of a 29-year-old Black man in Memphis, public servants involved in Tyre …
In this still taken from video released by the City of Memphis, a police officer is at the scene following the beating of Tyre Nichols. Mandatory Credit: City of Memphis

Originally Published: 01 FEB 23 11:24 ET

Updated: 01 FEB 23 15:54 ET

By Alisha Ebrahimji and Christina Zdanowicz, CNN

(CNN) -- As investigations continue into the deadly police beating of a 29-year-old Black man in Memphis, public servants involved in Tyre Nichols' traffic stop and brutal confrontation are facing repercussions -- some as severe as murder charges -- and more fallout is possible.

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CNN legal analyst on the significance of officers in Nichols case getting same charges

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy says that the five former Memphis police officers involved in the arrest of Tyre Nichols, who died following a traffic stop, are all responsible for his death. CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson explains the significance of the charges against the officers. Source: CNN

"We are looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident," Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy told CNN days after release of public body camera and surveillance footage in the January 7 encounter. "We're looking at everybody."

Five Black officers are due to be arraigned February 17 after they were fired January 20, then indicted on seven counts each, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct and official oppression. Two more officers -- one White and one still not publicly identified -- who were put on leave January 8 alongside the others remain under internal investigation, police said.

"Potential" charges "of false reporting" on the initial police report remain under scrutiny, as does every other person at the scene, the district attorney's office spokesperson Erica Williams told CNN on February 1.

All the fired officers and one still on leave were part of the force's SCORPION unit -- created to tackle rising crime in the city and disbanded amid national outcry following Nichols' death -- the department has confirmed. None of the fired officers previously had been disciplined for excessive force, though several had gotten written reprimands or short suspensions for violating department policies, their personnel files show.

Beyond police, three Memphis Fire Department staffers have been terminated and two Shelby County Sheriff's Office deputies were put on leave for their parts in the case, leaders of those agencies have said.

Here's what we know so far about those involved:

Tadarrius Bean

Bean, 24, was released on a $250,000 bond by January 27, Shelby County Jail records show. His attorney did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment.

Bean joined the department as a recruit in August 2020 and was commissioned as an officer in January 2021, personnel records show. He was transferred to the SCORPION unit in August.

No previous disciplinary action involving Bean is in the personnel files reviewed by CNN.

Demetrius Haley

Haley, 30, was released on a $350,000 bond on January 27, jail records show. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment.

Haley joined the department as a recruit in August 2020 and was commissioned as an officer in January 2021, personnel records show.

He got a written reprimand in November 2021 for failing to document his role in the detention that February of a suspect who said she suffered a dislocated shoulder as she was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car by Haley and another officer. Haley was not charged with excessive force; the other officer got a sustained complaint for "excessive/unnecessary force" and resigned, internal police records show.

A supervisor at the time called Haley "a hard-working officer (who) routinely makes good decisions" and said he was "sure that this was a limited event," records show.

Before that, Haley had been a defendant in a 2016 federal civil suit in which a Shelby County Correctional Center inmate claimed to have been beaten and had his civil rights violated. The lawsuit was dismissed, which Haley requested, records show. CNN has reached out to Haley's attorneys in the suit.

In the case, Haley was among three correctional officers said to have accused the plaintiff of trying to flush contraband and taken them to a restroom to be searched, court records show. "Haley and (a co-defendant) hit (plaintiff) in the face with punches," the complaint states. The inmate then was picked up and slammed face-first into a sink by a third correctional officer, then thrown to the floor, after which the inmate allegedly "blacked out" and woke up in a medical unit, it states.

Haley and another correctional officer acknowledged searching the inmate after they "observed smoke" and the attempted flush, according to their motion to dismiss. Haley denied the other allegations, it shows.

Emmitt Martin III

Martin, 30, was released on a $350,000 bond by January 27, jail records show. He will plead not guilty, his attorney William Massey said January 26.

"Justice means following the law, and the law says that no one is guilty until a jury says they're guilty," Massey said, adding, "No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die."

Martin joined the department in 2018, according to personnel files.

He got a three-day suspension without pay after a loaded revolver was found in the back of his police car in March 2019 following a shift in which he transported prisoners, the records show. And he got a one-day suspension without pay after failing in September 2020 to file a report on a domestic dispute after a complainant requested such a filing.

Martin also earned overall praise on performance evaluations. His 2021 performance "exceeds expectations" in reliability, compatibility, work attitude and dealing with the public, personnel records show. He "uses good judgement" and "is a three-year officer performing on the same level as more mature seasoned officers," the files said.

Desmond Mills Jr.

Mills, 32, was released on a $250,000 bond on January 26, according to jail records. He plans to plead not guilty, his attorney Blake Ballin said January 26.

Formerly a jailer in Mississippi and Tennessee, Mills is a "respectful father" who was "devastated" to be accused in Nichols' killing, Ballin has said, adding videos of Nichols' traffic stop "produced as many questions as they have answers."

"Some of the questions that remain will require a focus on Desmond Mills's individual actions; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see when he arrived late to the scene; on what Desmond knew and what he was able to see after he was pepper sprayed; and on whether Desmond's actions crossed the lines that were crossed by other officers during this incident," Ballin told CNN on January 28 in a statement.

Mills "is remorseful that he is attached to anything like this, that he is involved or connected to the death of somebody who -- who's life should not have been taken. That is devastating to him," Ballin told "CNN This Morning" on January 27.

"Just because Mr. Mills was a part of that system doesn't mean that he can't also be a victim of it, and so it's my job to protect him and to protect his rights," he added. "I caution everyone to look at this with an open mind and to treat each of these officers as individuals."

Mills joined the department as a recruit in March 2017, personnel files show.

He got a reprimand in 2019 for not filing a form after using physical force during an arrest to take a woman "to the ground so that she could be handcuffed," the records show. Mills was "trying to assist the other officers to gain control of the young lady," he said at a hearing, a summary states.

At a separate hearing about equipment handling, Mills' supervisor described him as "energized and a hard worker" who had "learned his lesson" after dropping his personal digital assistant, records show.

Justin Smith

Smith, 28, was released on a $250,000 bond on January 26, jail records show. His attorney did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment.

Smith joined the department as a recruit in March 2018, personnel files show.

He got a two-day suspension without pay in July 2021 for a traffic accident that January in which he hit a pickup truck with his unmarked police vehicle, causing it to spin out and hit another car, according to a police report. Smith and other drivers got minor injuries.

Preston Hemphill

Hemphill remains on a "relieved of duty" status -- along with an unnamed officer -- as an internal investigation continues, Memphis police said January 30 in a news release; whether he's being paid is unclear because police spokesperson Kimberly Elder declined to say.

"Officer Hemphill and the other officer's actions and inactions have been and continue to be the subject of this investigation since its inception on January 8, 2023," the release stated.

Hemphill was part of the now-disbanded SCORPION unit, a source familiar with his assignment confirmed to CNN.

During Nichols' initial traffic stop, Hemphill fired a stun gun at the driver and, after Nichols ran from that site, said, "One of them prongs hit the bastard," bodycam footage released by the city shows. Twice to another officer, he says: "I hope they stomp his ass."

Hemphill "was never present at the second scene," his attorney Lee Gerald said January 30, adding his client activated his bodycam as required and "is cooperating with officials in this investigation."

The footage does not show Hemphill at the second site, where the district attorney has said Nichols was beaten and suffered his serious injuries.

3 Memphis Fire personnel

Memphis Fire Department personnel terminated over their response to the Nichols encounter are: emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker, the agency said Monday. CNN has reached out to all three.

Long had been at the agency since March 2020, while Sandridge was hired in September 2019 and Whitaker's tenure began in March 1998, it said.

The three responded January 7 to a report of "a person pepper sprayed" and arrived at the scene to find Nichols "handcuffed on the ground leaning against a police vehicle," Fire Chief Gina Sweat said in a January 30 news release.

Fire officials' investigation concluded "the two EMT's responded based on the initial nature of the call ... and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols," the chief said.

Whitaker had stayed in the fire truck, the statement said.

After the EMTs arrived and before an ambulance arrived, first responders repeatedly walked away from Nichols, with Nichols intermittently falling onto his side, pole-camera video released Friday shows.

Two Fire Department staffers had been put on administrative leave pending an investigation before they were terminated, spokesperson Officer Qwanesha Ward told CNN at the time.

2 Shelby County Sheriff's deputies

Two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office were put on leave pending an investigation after the sheriff watched the video in the Nichols case on January 27.

"Having watched the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who appeared on scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols," Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr. said in a statement that day.