GRAPHIC: Former Memphis officer sent photo of Tyre Nichols after beating, new documents show

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 8:38 AM MST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) - New documents detail policy violations by former Memphis police officers, including excessive force, deceit and one instance of an officer taking photos of Tyre Nichols on the ground with his personal cell phone and sending them to several others while on duty, WMC reports.

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis sent a request to the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission for the decertification of all five former Memphis police officers charged in the death of Nichols.

Davis requested the change in status for Emmitt Martin, Desmond Mills, Justin Smith, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean. Those five officers have all been charged with second-degree murder for Nichols’ death.

The decertification process involves the revocation of the certificate or license of a police officer who commits certain kinds of misconduct as specified by state law or administrative regulations. Decertification would prevent the former officers from moving to another department in Tennessee.

All five former officers were members of the since-disbanded SCORPION Unit, a specialized 50-person unit made up of three components: crime suppression, auto theft task force and gang prevention.

The decertification requests were filed by Davis on Jan. 25.

Included with the requests are each former officer’s statements of charges and administrative summons, filed Jan. 14, which detail each former officer’s policy violations with the Memphis Police Department.

They were later fired from the police force on Jan. 20.

The documents fill in some of the blanks about what happened when Nichols was pulled over last month. Investigators determined all five officers involved in the beating disabled, removed or failed to turn on their body cameras.

GRAPHIC WARNING: Videos in this story contain graphic and disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised

Each statement of charges reads that after Nichols was placed in custody, all officers were captured on body camera footage making multiple unprofessional comments, laughing and bragging about each other’s involvement.

“Your conversation and lack of concern for the injured subject was witnessed by a civilian ... [whose] viewpoint was you and your partners left the injured subject lying on the ground, handcuffed and unattended,” the statements read.

Haley faces scrutiny from the Memphis Police Department for being the person responsible for forcing Nichols out of his car at the start of the traffic stop while using loud profanity and deploying pepper spray directly up close to Nichols’ eyes.

Haley was also on a phone call during the traffic stop, and the person on the other end heard the entire encounter.

“You never told the driver the purpose of the vehicle stop or that he was under arrest ... you were also on an active cell phone call where the person overheard the police encounter,” his statement reads.

Investigators also found Haley to be untruthful in his narrative of the incident.

“In your incident summary, you wrote that you heard your partner tell the individual, ‘Let my gun go!’ before he was taken to the ground,” the statement reads. “You were also heard making the same statement on body-worn camera to your partners in the presence of witness officers. However, video evidence did not support your oral or written statement and your information was deemed untruthful.”

Haley also took two pictures on his personal cell phone while standing in front of Nichols as he was “obviously injured” on the ground.

Investigators say Haley texted those pictures to six other people, including two police officers, a civilian Memphis Police Department employee and a female acquaintance.

Haley was found in violation of policies on personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty, excessive force/unnecessary force, compliance with body-worn camera regulations and information concerning police business.

Bean’s statement of charges reads that during his encounter with Nichols, he held Nichols by one of his arms while his partners kicked, punched and pepper sprayed him several times.

He also admitted to punching Nichols in the face multiple times with a closed fist in his Garrity statement.

Bean also removed his camera on the scene, the police said.

Bean was found in violation of policies regarding personal conduct, neglect of duty, duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct, excessive force/unnecessary force and compliance with body-worn camera regulations.

Smith also restrained Nichols during his beating and failed to record Nichols’ arrest in its entirety, according to Memphis Police Department.

“Your on-duty conduct was unbecoming, and you neglected your duty to render aid and provide viable details to the emergency medical personnel as a first responder and certified EMT,” his statement reads in part.

Despite this, Smith was the only officer to give a statement to investigators. He said he was supposed to be on desk duty that day because of a knee injury, but his supervisor put him on patrol.

“Even though no one else requested medical assistance,” he wrote in a letter placed into his file, “I immediately made a radio call that medical should be sent.”

Smith also wrote “the suspect was violent and would not comply,” which every video from the scene showed was not true.

Smith was found in violation of policies regarding personal conduct, neglect of duty, duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct, excessive force/unnecessary force and compliance with body-worn camera regulations .

Mills is the former officer seen on video striking Nichols with a baton three times, police said.

His statement of charges reads that “Although you did not assist with handcuffing the subject, your use of force behavior was excessive, unnecessary, and caused serious bodily injury.”

Memphis Police Department says when Mills and his supervisor talked to Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, that night, they “did not obtain her contact information” and “refused to provide an accurate account of her son’s encounter with police or his condition.”

Mills also removed his camera on the scene, according to investigators.

Mills was found in violation of the following policies: personal conduct, neglect of duty, excessive force/unnecessary force and compliance with body-worn camera regulations.

According to investigators, Martin was the person responsible for punching Nichols in the face and kicking him repeatedly while he was on the ground. He was heard on body-worn camera audio making assaultive statements like “B-----, put your arm behind your back before I break it,” and “I’mma knock you the f--- out!”

Investigators say police body camera video shows that Nichols, a young man who loved skateboarding and taking pictures of sunsets, never used any profanity or displayed any violent threats toward the officers.

Martin claimed in his incident report that Nichols’ attempted to grab the gun from his holster, but these claims were found to be deceitful, according to Memphis Police Department.

“You reported the subject grabbed your duty weapon before you and your partners placed him on the ground,” his statement reads. “However, video evidence does not corroborate your statement in the report. During your Garrity statement, you were afforded the opportunity to review your use of force narrative and told ISB investigators that the details were correct. You failed to disclose you punched the subject in the face and kicked him multiple times... both your oral and written statement was deemed deceitful.”

Martin also removed his camera on the scene, according to investigators.

Martin was found in violation of the following policies: personal conduct, neglect of duty, truthfulness, duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct, excessive force/unnecessary force and compliance with body-worn camera regulations.

Memphis City Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink said seven additional officers violated policy in the Tyre Nichols investigation.

While Memphis Police Department received nationwide praise for the swiftness of the investigation, the president of the Memphis Police Association, Essica Cage-Rosario, is quoted in the decertification documents saying the hearings were a “gross violation of the officers’ right to due process.”

“The MPA objects,” she said, “to the MPD’s decision to proceed with the administrative hearing prior to the conclusion of the administrative investigation and TBI investigation.”

The Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission is responsible for developing and enforcing professional standards and training requirements for all local law enforcement officers and is responsible for certifying and decertifying law enforcement officers.

The decertification hearings will take place at the next available commission meeting following 30 days after the service of the notice. At this meeting or at any time during the process, the former officers will have the ability to voluntarily surrender their certification.

The date and time for the former officers’ decertification hearings have not been finalized.