Memphis Officer Texted Photo of Tyre Nichols After Beating
MEMPHIS — As Tyre Nichols sat propped against a police car, bloodied, dazed and handcuffed after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers, one of those officers took a picture of him and sent it to at least five people, the Memphis Police Department said in a document released by the state on Tuesday.
The a letter that the department sent to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission as part of a request last month for the regulatory agency to decertify five officers involved in the beating. Those officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Nichols’s death.
The decertification, which was requested by Chief Cerelyn Davis of the Memphis police, would make the fired officers ineligible to work as police officers in the state.
In the newly released documents, police officials said that one of the five officers, Demetrius Haley, admitted to sending a photograph of Mr. Nichols to at least five people, including two fellow officers, a civilian employee of the department and a female acquaintance. A sixth person also received the photo, the records state.
Michael Stengel, a lawyer for Mr. Haley, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Videos of the beating that were released by the city last month appeared to show Mr. Haley taking pictures of Mr. Nichols a few minutes after the beating, when the police officers had propped him up against a police car. The videos show Mr. Haley shining a flashlight on Mr. Nichols and appearing to take a photograph with his phone. He then looks briefly at his phone and, a few seconds later, appears to take another picture.
The Death of Tyre Nichols
Five Memphis police officers have been charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man, after a traffic stop escalated into a brutal beating.
- Police Report: An official police report written hours after the beating of Mr. Nichols offered a starkly different account of police violence than what videos had shown.
- Scorpion Unit: The Memphis Police Department disbanded the specialized street crime unit — one of several that American cities have assembled to fight a new surge in crime — after five of its officers were charged with murder in Mr. Nichols’s death.
- E.M.T.s Suspended: The two emergency medical technicians who first arrived to treat Mr. Nichols after he was beaten did not provide any care for 19 minutes after getting to the scene, a regulatory agency concluded as it voted to suspend their licenses.
- Shaping a City: Mr. Nichols’s fatal beating is one of many traumatic events that have molded Memphis.
Memphis Police Department policy prohibits officers from using personal cellphones while performing patrol duties, such as driving a police vehicle, handling calls for service or conducting traffic stops. The department’s letter said Mr. Haley had used a personal cellphone.
Police body camera and street camera footage appear to show Detective Demetrius Haley taking cellphone photographs of Tyre Nichols.
The police had stopped Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker and photographer, on the evening of Jan. 7 as he drove along a street near his mother’s house. The officers reported that he had been driving recklessly, though the police chief has since said the department could not find evidence of that.
Mr. Haley and other officers approached Mr. Nichols’s car, with at least one officer aiming his gun at the car. Mr. Haley, shouting obscenities, pulled Mr. Nichols out of the car while officers yelled conflicting orders and threatened to hurt him. “You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Mr. Nichols said as he lay on the pavement. “I’m just trying to go home.”
When Mr. Haley tried to pepper spray Mr. Nichols’s face, Mr. Nichols got up and ran away as another officer fired his Taser at him. The officers caught up with him several minutes later — less than 100 yards from his mother’s house — and repeatedly beat him for nearly three minutes.
Mr. Haley drove to the scene after the other officers had found Mr. Nichols and was not present for much of the assault, when officers kicked, punched and used a baton to strike Mr. Nichols. When Mr. Haley arrived, officers were in the process of handcuffing Mr. Nichols, who was groaning in pain, and had pinned him to the ground on his stomach. Even so, Mr. Haley ran up and delivered a strong kick to Mr. Nichols’s head or upper body.
Mr. Nichols was left bloody on the concrete, and he repeatedly fell over after officers propped him up next to a police car. He died three days later.
His death sparked protests in several cities after the videos were released, and the Memphis Police Department said it was disbanding the unit that the officers had been assigned to. Known as Scorpion, it was created to target neighborhoods with high crime rates. The department also suspended two additional officers, one of whom had fired the Taser at Mr. Nichols as he ran away. Later, as that officer’s body camera continued rolling, the officer said, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
The fallout also extended to the Fire Department, with the fire chief terminating two emergency medical technicians who had been the first medical workers to arrive on the scene, as well as a fire lieutenant. A state board suspended the E.M.T.s’ licenses last week, saying they had not provided medical care to Mr. Nichols for 19 minutes after arriving at the scene following the beating. The fire chief said that the lieutenant had never gotten off the fire truck.
While on the police force, Mr. Haley was reprimanded in 2021 for failing to file a report after grabbing someone by the arm while making an arrest, according to records released by the city this week. Mr. Haley said at a disciplinary hearing that he had been mistaken about “the amount of force necessary to require” such documentation, and a lieutenant spoke on his behalf, saying he worked hard and “routinely makes good decisions.”
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Alexander Cardia, Eliza Fawcett, Ishaan Jhaveri, Christoph Koettl and Sean Plambeck. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.