Five police officers already charged in the murder of Tyre Nichols, a young African American who died after being beaten, now face federal indictment, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
Videos showed the officers, who are all Black, repeatedly kicking and punching Nichols during a traffic stop close to his home in the US city of Memphis on January 7, three days before he died in hospital.
“The country watched in horror as Tyre Nichols was kicked, punched, tased and pepper sprayed,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a brief video statement posted online.
The department said the five officers, who have been fired, “willfully deprived Nichols of his constitutional rights,” resulting in “bodily injury and the death of Nichols.”
A federal grand jury in Memphis, located in the US south, on Tuesday charged the five former officers with federal civil rights, conspiracy, and obstruction offenses, the Department of Justice said.
The officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr — have already been charged by state prosecutors in Tennessee with second degree murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and “official oppression.”
They have pleaded not guilty.
Nichols, 29, was stopped by the five, who were members of a special police anti-crime squad called the Scorpion Unit, for an alleged traffic violation, according to police.
He was beaten viciously by the officers, in scenes recorded in body camera and security camera footage that triggered outrage when made public later that month.
Vice President Kamala Harris attended Nichols’ funeral in February and Nichols’ family members were invited to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in Washington several days later.