Former Memphis officer Desmond Mills Jr. pleads guilty in death of Tire Nichols

By | November 2, 2023

A former Memphis police officer pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of violating the civil rights of Tire Nichols, a young black man who died after being severely beaten by police in January, according to court documents.

Desmond Mills Jr., 33, changed his plea to not guilty by striking a deal with prosecutors, becoming the first person convicted in a case that has reignited national outrage over police misconduct and excessive force against black men. He faces up to 15 years in prison, authorities said.

Nichols, 29, was punched by several officers for about three minutes on Jan. 7 in an incident captured by surveillance video and police body cameras. He died from his injuries three days later.

In September, federal authorities charged Mills and four other former officers – Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Justin Smith – with using excessive force and violating Nichols’ rights, as well as conspiring to commit making false statements to supervisors while reporting the incidents and obstructing justice in subsequent investigations. All former officers are black.

Former Memphis officers charged with civil rights violations in Tire Nichols killing

Martin, Bean, Haley and Smith have pleaded not guilty in the federal case with a trial scheduled for May 6, 2024. All five have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the state of Tennessee.

Federal and state lawsuits are just part of the broad fallout from Nichols’ death.

The Memphis Police Department is the subject of a extensive civil investigation by the Department of Justice on its culture, training and policies. The police department disbanded the specialized Scorpion unit, which focused on drug cases and whose officers were involved in the beating of Nichols.

The Nichols family filed a federal civil rights trial against the city of Memphis, the police department, the police chief, the fire department and the five former police officers involved in the beating.

In August, Shelby County Prosecutor Steven Mulroy dismissed charges in 30 cases was investigated by the former police officers charged in Nichols’ death and reduced charges in a dozen other cases. He cited concerns about the former officers’ credibility.

“Desmond Mills’ plea today is entirely consistent with our allegations in the civil lawsuit against the City of Memphis,” Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for the Nichols family, said in a statement. “We firmly believe that these officers, including Mills, acted under the direction of a policy that not only violated the civil rights of innocent civilians, but caused unnecessary suffering to many people.” »

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