DOJ announces it will review Memphis Police Department following Tyre Nichols’ death as more video will be released

By |2023-03-08T13:20:55-05:00March 8th, 2023|Breonna Taylor|

CNN  —  [Breaking news update, published at 1:09 p.m. ET] The release of additional audio and video in the police beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis will be delayed amid a legal challenge, according to a court order. A hearing on the issue is set for Wednesday afternoon after a motion was filed by an attorney for one of the former officers charged in Nichols’ death, Allison Fouche, spokesperson for the Memphis mayor’s office, told CNN. The order comes in response to a motion filed by Blake Ballin, an attorney for Desmond Mills Jr. [Previous story, published at 12:43 p.m. ET] The planned release of hours of additional video from the traffic stop that led to the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols is on hold amid a legal challenge from one of the former officers charged in Nichols’ death. A hearing on the issue is set to take place Wednesday afternoon after a motion was filed by the ex-officer’s attorney, Allison Fouche, a spokesperson for the Memphis mayor’s office, told CNN. Officials were expected to release Wednesday about 20 more hours of footage from the night of the beating in early January, along with some records from the city’s now-finished internal probe into 13 police officers and four fire department personnel, a Memphis official said. The official revealed Tuesday that a seventh police officer has been fired and others were suspended or left the force after the brutal encounter in the western Tennessee city. Previously, authorities said six officers were fired, five of whom have been criminally charged. The city’s internal investigations into the beatings have finished, so the city intends to release the additional video footage Wednesday afternoon, Memphis Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink told a city council committee Tuesday morning. The unreleased footage most notably will include audio of what was said after the beating and after an ambulance took Nichols to a hospital, and it could play an investigative role as his office contemplates additional charges, the county prosecutor previously told CNN. News of the defense attorney’s legal challenge Wednesday came soon after the Department of Justice announced it will perform a review of the Memphis Police Department in the wake of Nichols’ death. The review, requested by the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, and the city’s police chief, will cover “policies, practices, training, data, and processes related to MPD’s use-of-force, de-escalation, and specialized units,” according to a news release from the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. A public report outlining the office’s findings and recommendations will be made public at the end of the review, the release states. The announcement Memphis came shortly before the DOJ issued a scathing critique of the Louisville Metro Police Department following a separate two-year review of that agency after the botched raid that killed Breonna Taylor. Footage release earlier contradicted police statements Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was repeatedly punched and kicked by Memphis police officers following a traffic stop and brief pursuit on foot on January 7. Nichols was hospitalized after the beating and died three days later. Five police officers, who are also Black, were fired following an internal investigation and were indicted on criminal charges January 26. Body camera videos and surveillance footage from the arrest were released on January 27, showing the severity of the beating to the public and drawing widespread condemnation from residents and police officials alike. The video shook a nation long accustomed to videos of police brutality – especially against people of color – and spurred protests and vigils in Memphis and other major US cities. The video released in January contradicted what officers said happened in the initial police report filed after Nichols’ beating, the county prosecutor said, and prompted renewed national debate on justice in policing and reform. The Memphis City Council on Tuesday passed several public safety ordinances related to policing. Among them was one that established an “annual independent review” of the police department’s training academy, and another that established an independent review process for use of force incidents, as well as the deaths or serious injury of people in custody. In early February Shelby County prosecutor Steven Mulroy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the video released in January shows “the relevant parts” of the initial stop and the beating after the foot chase, but the yet-to-be-released footage could play a role in investigations. Potential charges of “false reporting” related to the initial police report were being investigated, Erica Williams, a spokesperson for Mulroy’s office, told CNN around the same time. When asked whether anyone new will face criminal charges now that the city’s investigation is finished, Williams said Tuesday: “Not at this time.” Mulroy’s office previously told CNN it would wait for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conclude an investigation before deciding on more charges. A 7th officer was fired, and one who retired likely would have been, too, city attorney says The city will also release Wednesday some records related to the internal probes of the 13 police officers and four fire department personnel, including documents indicating what they were being investigated for, Sink said. Other investigative files have information that needs to be redacted, and will be posted online when that is completed, she added without giving a timeline. But Sink already announced the bottom line on Tuesday: Seven police officers were fired, three were suspended, one retired and two had their investigations dropped as result of the probes, she said. That was the first time the city announced a seventh officer was fired. That person’s name, and details about what the officer is accused of doing, weren’t immediately released. Also, the officer who retired likely would have been terminated, Sink said without elaborating about what that officer was accused of doing. The city has previously said that three Memphis fire department personnel who responded to the scene – two emergency medical technicians and a fire lieutenant – were fired, though none was criminally charged. On Tuesday, Sink said a fourth fire department worker was suspended. Sink did not elaborate. The two fired EMTs did not conduct a primary examination of Nichols for the first 19 minutes they were on scene, and the lieutenant stayed in a fire truck, according to a state emergency medical services board. A council member asked Sink whether anyone who struck Nichols was still part of either the police department or fire department. “No. All of those officers … have been charged criminally,” Sink said. Those five former Memphis police officers indicted in January were arraigned February 17 on criminal charges. Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Second-degree murder in Tennessee is considered a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison. Their attorneys entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. They are due back in court on May 1. The five charged officers were part of the department’s specialized SCORPION unit, which was launched in 2021 to take on a rise in violent crime in Memphis. Memphis police announced the unit would be permanently deactivated shortly after video of Nichols’ arrest was released in January, and the DOJ said Wednesday it would separately review specialized units across the US and create a guide for their use in addition to its review of the Memphis Police Department. Shortly after video of Nichols’ arrest was released in January, Memphis police announced the unit would be permanently deactivated as a sign the department was taking “proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.” Police in February identified a sixth officer who was fired. Preston Hemphill, who is White, saying he was accused of violating departmental policies including those covering personal conduct and truthfulness. Seven officers – beyond the six who’d been fired at the time – were facing disciplinary action for policy violations, Sink said February 7. Tuesday’s announcement covers the discipline decisions for all 13. In addition, two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies who were at the scene were suspended for five days each without pay for their parts in the case, according to a sheriff’s office news release obtained by CNN affiliate WHBQ. CNN’s Pamela Kirkland, Shimon Prokupecz and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.