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4 of the 5 officers charged in Tyre Nichols' death had prior violations at work

The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows police officers talking after a brutal attack on Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols died on Jan. 10. The five officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows police officers talking after a brutal attack on Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols died on Jan. 10. The five officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.

Four of the five former Memphis Police officers who have been charged in the death of Tyre Nichols had previous infractions with the department, according to Memphis police personnel records shared with NPR.

Former officers Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Emmitt Martin, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean were fired Jan. 20 and are now being charged with murder.Video of the Jan. 7 incident was released Friday.

Four of those officers — Haley, Martin, Mills and Smith — were reprimanded or suspended earlier for their failure to report when they used physical force, failure to report a domestic dispute, or for damages sustained to their squad cruisers, according to the files from Memphis police. Bean did not have any reprimands or suspensions in the files.

The two discipline cases about the use of force focused on whether the officers filed the required reports about the incidents and did not appear to examine if the officers' used of force was warranted.

Here is a look at the officers' records:

Demetrius Haley

Haley started at the department in August 2020. He violated department policy when, in February 2021, he did not fill out a response to resistance form after he grabbed a woman's arm to handcuff her. The forms must be filled out if an officer uses any part of their body "to compel compliance," according to the file.

In a hearing regarding the incident, Haley said he misjudged the amount of force needed to warrant filling out the form. His lieutenant said Haley was a "hard-working officer" who "routinely makes good decisions" and "he was sure that this was a limited event." Haley was given a written reprimand.

In August 2021, Haley crashed into a stop sign while responding to a call about an aggravated assault and was given a traffic ticket. During the hearing about the incident, Haley said that as he was driving to the scene, a call came over the radio that one of the responding officers was holding the suspect at gunpoint and that he sped there "only thinking about the officer's safety."

The hearing officer wrote that "Officer Haley took full ownership for the accident and was very humble during the hearing" and the violation was dismissed.

Desmond Mills, Jr.

Mills graduated with a degree in criminal justice from West Virginia State University in 2013 and began at the Memphis Police Department in March 2017.

In March 2019, Mills violated procedure when he dropped his personal digital assistant (PDA) into the street while entering his squad car. The device was then run over by a separate car.

It was Mills' first infraction, and he immediately reported the incident to his union representative, so he received a written reprimand, according to department records.

Later that month, Mills failed to file a response to resistance form when he used physical force to take a woman down to the ground so she could be handcuffed and arrested. In the hearing in August 2021, Mills said he did not realize his actions necessitated use of the form and was again issued a written reprimand.

Emmitt Martin III

Martin graduated from Bethel University in 2015 with a degree in criminal justice and started at the department in March 2018.

In March 2019, a loaded handgun was found in the rear passenger side of a squad car used by Martin and his partner. Martin said he failed to do a proper pre- and post-shift inspection, and only inspected the car from the outside. During his shift that day, he and his partner conducted two traffic stops, in which the suspects were placed in the backseat where the gun was found. Additionally, the officers did not do inspections after the suspects left the vehicle, as is protocol. Martin was issued a three-day suspension without pay, according to the files.

In September 2020, Martin violated protocol by mishandling a domestic abuse complaint between two sisters, one of whose husband requested a report. Martin did not take the report and said he did not believe one was necessary, reasoning that the parties involved were intoxicated and the man's wife – the alleged victim of abuse – did not want the report. The responding officers, including Martin, threatened the involved parties that if they had to take a report, both sisters would be arrested, according to department records.

A fellow officer and lieutenant at the disciplinary hearing defended Martin, saying the victim didn't want a report and Martin is not one to "shirk responsibility."

"Memphis Police Officers are directed by department policy and state law to make a complete report on the scene of Domestic abuse calls," the hearing officer wrote. "Officer[s] cannot base their decision to arrest based [on] the victim's consent or on the perception of the victim's willingness to cooperate with prosecution."

Martin was issued a one-day suspension without pay.

In a 2021 performance evaluation, Martin ranked as exceeding expectations in dealing with the public.

"Officer Martin is respectful when dealing with others regardless of their sex, race, age, or rank," the evaluation stated. "He approaches his calls with a positive attitude and is well received when dealing with the public. He is continually a top leader in arrests and calls, and not one person he has arrested has complained."

Justin Smith

Smith began at the department in March 2018. In January 2021, he was passing a vehicle and crashed into its rear, causing it to spin and crash into a third vehicle, which had two people inside. All parties were sent to the hospital in non-critical condition.

Smith said the driver of the second vehicle went right and then left into his lane suddenly. He admitted to speeding, but said his memory was somewhat unclear due to his minor head injury from the airbag, according to a summary from the disciplinary hearing.

Smith was issued a citation, suspended for two days without pay and ordered to take remedial driver training.

Tadarrius Bean

Bean started with Memphis police in August 2020. He had no prior infractions from the department on his record.

WKNO's Katie Riordan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 1, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
In a previous summary of this story that appeared on the homepage, one of the infractions was described incorrectly as "excessive use of force." It was failure to report use of force.
Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]