Two of the five former Memphis police officers arrested for the killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols had been on the job for a couple of years, and the others no more than six years. And some of the officers had been part of a new anti-violence unit called SCORPION, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, prosecutors have confirmed.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were fired on Jan. 20 after an administrative investigation found they had violated department policy on the use of force. They were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.
Like Nichols, all five former officers are Black.
Following the brutal beating on Jan. 7, Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later.
Police initially said that Nichols fled on foot during a traffic stop for reckless driving and that a “confrontation” happened when the officers tried to detain him.
However, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis told MSNBC Friday that an investigation and review of available camera footage could not “substantiate” the reckless driving claim.
Now a nervous nation braces for the possibility of widespread protests against police violence as Memphis officials prepare to release video of the fatal beating that Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, has already described as “horrific.”
This is what we know about the five Memphis police officers at the center of this latest storm:
Demetrius Haley, 30
Before Haley joined the Memphis Police Department in August 2020, he worked as a corrections officer for the Shelby County Corrections Department. And in a 2016 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Western Tennessee, Haley was accused of taking part in the beating of an inmate named Cordarlrius Sledge some eight years ago.
Sledge said Haley and another officer punched him in the face and a third slammed him face-first into a sink. “After that I blacked out,” Sledge said in the suit.
The suit was dismissed in 2018 after a judge ruled that Sledge had not properly served one of the defendants with a summons. Sledge, who filed the suit without the help of a lawyer, said he was in federal custody at the time and unable to complete all the paperwork.
Tadarrius Bean, 24
Bean’s family was thrilled when he was hired in August 2020 by the Memphis Police Department.
“Everybody was proud of him, proud that he was doing what he loved to do,” said Diane Thompson, whose late brother had been married to Bean’s mother.
Bean previously worked at a fast food restaurant in Mississippi and also worked for AT&T in Memphis, according to his LinkedIn profile.
From 2016 through 2020, Bean studied criminal justice and law enforcement at the University of Mississippi and did an internship with the campus police department, according to his profile. His name was on the Ole Miss 2020 commencement list, which described him as graduating with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice.
Emmitt Martin III, 30
Martin was hired by the Memphis Police Department in March 2018 and was described by a former Bethel University classmate as “one of the coolest brothers ever.”
Joshua Harper, who is now a pastor in Missouri, said he followed Martin on social media after they left the Christian college in McKenzie, Tenn. He said Martin posted a lot about his daughter. He said the man depicted in court papers “is not the person that I know.”
“I was shocked only for a second because I understood that he was a police officer and I know behind the badge that anything can happen when anyone has power and authority,” Harper said.
Martin was a tight end on the Bethel University football team.
Desmond Mills Jr., 32
Mills was nicknamed “Box” when he played football for West Virginia State University, one of his former coaches, Kip Shaw, said.
Shaw, who coached him in 2009 and 2010, said Mills was a popular and hard-working member of the team who played center and offensive guard.
“I’m not one to be surprised a lot,” Shaw said. “But when I saw the news, I was just shocked. I’ve been coaching a long time and you just never know. I told my wife, ‘That man played for us at West Virginia State.’”
Mills was hired by the Memphis Police Department in March 2017. He listed his hometown as Hartford, Connecticut, on WVSU football team’s 2012 roster. He spent his formative years in a suburb north of there called Bloomfield.
“We can confirm that one of the officers — Desmond Mills Jr. — is a graduate of Bloomfield High School, Class of 2008,” school officials said in a statement.
Justin Smith, 28
Smith was hired by the Memphis Police Department in March 2018. Following his arrest, Smith posted his $250,000 bond and was released from custody Thursday night.