Memphis police officers charged with murder of Tyre Nichols

US President Joe Biden says family 'deserves swift, full and transparent investigation into his death'

Family members and supporters hold a photograph of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 23. AP
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Five former Memphis police officers have been taken into custody on second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Tyre Nichols, a black man who died three days after being stopped in traffic, county jail records showed on Thursday.

They said Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

"Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full and transparent investigation into his death," US President Joe Biden said.

"Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all."

"We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted black and brown people."

Second-degree murder is a felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

"To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths," Mr Biden said.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy will hold a public briefing on the case on Thursday afternoon.

Officials are expected to release bodycam footage of the traffic stop on Friday, Reuters reported.

Mr Nichols, 29, a father, died in hospital on January 10, three days after sustaining injuries during his arrest by the five police officers.

They were dismissed from the force last Saturday for breaching departmental policies, including using excessive force, failing to intervene and failing to render aid.

Other Memphis officers remain under investigation for policy infractions, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said on Wednesday.

In a video posted on YouTube, Ms Davis asked for calm when the bodycam footage is made public.

"I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights," she said.

"I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process."

As state and federal investigations continue, Ms Davis promised “full and complete co-operation” from the Memphis Police Department to determine what contributed to Mr Nichols' death three days after his January 7 arrest.

The Nichols family viewed the police footage on Monday with their attorney, Ben Crump.

Mr Crump, the lawyer representing the Nichols family, said police video showed Mr Nichols was shocked, hit with pepper spray and restrained when he was pulled over for a traffic stop near his home.

He was returning home from a suburban park, where he had taken photos of the sunset.

Mr Crump compared the beating to the 1991 Los Angeles police assault on Rodney King that was caught on video and sparked riots and police reforms.

"He was defenceless the entire time. He was a human pinata for those police officers," said Antonio Romanucci, Mr Crump's co-counsel.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 27, 2023, 7:04 AM