Five Memphis police officers were fired on Friday after the chief said they violated department policies during a Tennessee traffic stop this month that ended with the hospitalization and death of a 29-year-old man.
An administrative investigation by Memphis Police found that officers allegedly violated several policies, including use of excessive force, duty to intervene and duty to provide assistance at the Tire Nichols traffic stop on Jan. 7, Police Chief CJ Davis said in an announcement.
The officers were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. They were contracted between 2017 and 2020.
“The Memphis Police Department is committed to protecting and defending the rights of every citizen in our city,” said Davis. “The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work our officers do, with integrity, every day.”
Efforts to contact officers on Friday were unsuccessful.
In an emailed statement, Memphis Police Association President Lt. Essica Cage-Rosario cited an ongoing criminal investigation into Nichols’ death and declined to comment on the officers’ firing.
“The citizens of Memphis and, more importantly, Mr. Nichols deserves to know the full account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed to it,” she said.
In a statement, lawyers for the family said the firing of the officers was a first step toward justice for Nichols and his family.
“They must also be held accountable for stealing the life of this man and his son,” attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement.
The statement added that they would be reviewing body camera video from the traffic stop in the coming days, “providing clarity on what led to the loss of this young man, father and son. We will continue to demand transparency and accountability in this case, and it will not stop until let us do full justice to Tire and her family.”
Authorities said officers pulled Nichols over for reckless driving on Jan. 7. A “showdown” ensued, the department said at the time, and officers pursued Nichols as he fled on foot.
While trying to take Nichols into custody, there was another confrontation and Nichols complained of shortness of breath, the department said.
Nichols died three days later.
Authorities did not provide details about the confrontation.
A photo provided by his stepfather showed Nichols hospitalized with blood on his face and what appeared to be a swollen eye.
The case is also being reviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department, which announced earlier this week that it had opened a civil rights inquiry.