1 of 3 | People gather and hold signs at a Justice for Tyre Nichols protest in Times Square in New York City in January. A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted five former Memphis, Tenn., police officers on civil-rights violations related to the January beating death of Nichols. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted five former Memphis, Tenn., police officers on civil-rights violations related to the January beating death of motorist Tyre Nichols.
The officers already face state second-degree murder charges for their alleged roles in Nichols' death.
Nichols died in a hospital on January 10, three days after being beaten by members of an elite police anti-gang unit near his home.
Previously, MPD officers Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith, Demetrius Haley, and Desmond Mills Jr. were each charged in Tennessee with aggravated kidnapping and second-degree murder.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury had indicted all five of the officers on civil-rights charges.
"It is tragic to see a life cut short at 29, with so many milestones unmet, so many words unsaid, so much potential unfulfilled," said the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division's Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. "These federal charges reflect the Justice Department's unwavering commitment to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of every American and preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system."
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department had informed Nichols' family of the charges.
"Today the Justice Department informed the family of Tyre Nichols that we have charged five former Memphis police detectives with federal crimes in connection with the death of Mr. Nichols," Garland said in a videotaped statement Tuesday.
"On Jan. 7 of this year, Tyre Nichols was just minutes away from home when he was pulled over by law enforcement officers sworn to protect him. As the indictment charges, the defendants in this case, who at the time were serving as detectives of the Memphis police department, brutally beat Mr. Nichols, they then failed to render medical aid to Mr. Nichols and further failed to tell emergency responders that they had struck him repeatedly even as his condition deteriorated and he became unresponsive," Garland continued.
Garland said that that the officers had lied about Nichols' actions after the fact.
"We also allege that while Mr. Nichols lay dying in a hospital the defendants conspired to cover up their crimes including by falsely stating that Mr. Nichols had actively resisted arrest. Weeks after Mr. Nichols death the Memphis Police Department released body camera footage of the incident. The country watched in horror as Mr. Nichols was kicked, punched, tased and pepper sprayed. We all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and saying quote 'I'm just trying to go home,'" Garland said.
Garland said that the officers' actions were directly responsible for Nichols' death.
"We allege that the defendants charged today willfully deprived Tyre Nichols of his constitutional rights and that their actions resulted in his death. Tyre Nichols should be alive today. I want to express my deep condolences to Mr. Nichols' loved ones as they continue to grieve the loss of their beloved son, father, brother, grandson and friend. 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," Garland said.
In addition to state charges, the five officers could face life in prison from the federal charges that were announced Tuesday.