Statement of Police Officer Charged in Tyre Nichols Death Made Public, Seven Others Could be Charged

D.T. Carson

In a written statement—obtained and published by the Memphis Commercial Appeal—Justin Smith, one of the five original officers (Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Tadarrius Bean and Emmitt Martin III) fired and criminally charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, says he did nothing wrong.

Here are excerpts of his statement:

      I would state for the record that on January 7, 2023, I assisted another officer in making an arrest of a non-compliant suspect. My first interaction with that suspect was that suspect fighting with the other officer in failing to comply in our attempts to take the suspect into custody.

It was stated in the radio dispatch that the suspect had been tazed as well as sprayed with OC spray and had fled the scene. Even though no one else requested medical assistance…

      I then came upon one officer taking what was later learned to be the same suspect to the ground. I assisted that officer in our attempts to take that suspect into custody. The suspect was violent and would not comply.

      It is my contention that I personally utilized the training and defensive tactics provided to me as a Memphis police officer in attempting to handcuff the suspect.

      I categorically deny utilizing any defensive weapons other than OC spray. OC spray was used only after another officer had attempted to utilize OC spray on the suspect but inadvertently sprayed himself.

      Obviously, because one officer believed that the use of OC spray was reasonable and necessary to gain control over the suspect, I then attempted to utilize by OC spray. I am not sure whether or not it was effective when used.

      I continued to struggle with the actively resisting suspect to gain control of said suspect because he had only one arm/wrist handcuffed. 

After the suspect was handcuffed, I then removed myself from the immediate vicinity as my knee was in severe pain. When I returned to the immediate area, I informed my fellow officers to assist me in sitting the suspect against my squad car in order for the suspect to breathe better.

The 26-year old officer went on to state that he did not immediately turn on his body worn camera. In fact, all five of the officers received body camera violations for having their cameras off or not wearing them for the duration of the traffic stop and subsequent beating of Nichols.

Smith was the only officer of the five initially arrested to provide a statement during internal hearings that led to them being fired. The statement was written prior to the release of the video viewed by millions across the country and around the world.

A reason for the fatal traffic stop has yet to be established. According to reports, the initial two officers to stop Nichols, pulled up to him in an opposing traffic lane and one officer (Haley) wearing a black hoodie over his head jumped out and started shouting profanity to Nichols. A second officer (Martin III) claimed that Nichols was reaching for a gun as he pulled him from the car, shouting ‘B***h, put your arm behind your back before I break it,’ and, ‘I’mma knock your ass the f**k out!'”

In total, six officers have been fired and a seventh has been suspended. Six to seven others are being reviewed for possible charges and the police chief is under pressure from activists to step down as residents come forward with similar stories of abuse at the hands of Memphis police. One of them, Monterrious Harris, has filed a $5 million federal lawsuit, naming some of the same officers involved in the Nichols case.

Haley was also discovered to have taken photographs of a dying Nichols as he lay propped against the police car and sent them to other officers and a female friend.

Nichols mom, RowVaughn Wells , was among the special guests of President Joe Biden at his State of the Union Address to the nation.

Said Wells, ““My son was just on his way home. Those police officers took a shining, bright light away from our family. Hopefully, by me attending the State of the Union, Congress will recognize that (the police) need to stop beating up and killing Black and brown young men as if they don’t mean anything.”

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