Sheriff Bonner: Suspended SCSO deputy was friends with MPD officer charged in Tyre Nichols’ death

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 8:11 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Questions still remain about why two Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies were at the scene of the arrest of Tyre Nichols.

The initial stop was handled by Memphis police, and Sheriff Floyd Bonner says there was no reason why his two deputies should have been there.

Those two are currently serving a five-day suspension without pay.

Sheriff Bonner did confirm that at least one of the suspended deputies was friends with one of the five MPD officers facing murder charges in Nichols’ death.

Since there was no communication between MPD and SCSO over the radio, Sheriff Bonner suspects there was communication that night on personal cell phones, which is a policy violation.

Body cam footage from the Jan. 7 traffic stop shows five Memphis police officers assaulting the 29-year-old. After the assault, that same footage shows two SCSO deputies appear on the scene.

Bonner says the two deputies arrived just 29 seconds before EMTs arrived.

When I was watching it with my command staff that night, and when I saw the deputies, I turned around to my chiefs and said, ‘What are we doing there?’ And no one knew, and that’s why we called for an immediate investigation,” said Bonner.

The two deputies from that video are Jeremy Watkins and Johntavious Bowers, fairly new to the force, having joined in June 2021.

Authorities say the two were on patrol the night of the Nichols assault, but the intersection of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove is not in their patrol area.

“The supervisor did not know that they were there. The dispatcher didn’t know that they were there, so there were a number of administrative policy violations,” said Bonner.

Both were suspended for five days without pay for also not keeping their body-worn cameras on while on the scene and not being available for radio calls.

Deputy Watkins also failed to report on his daily activity log that he made the scene of the Nichols stop.

Sheriff Bonner says each deputy must complete more than 1,000 training hours in order to graduate; that’s more than double what is required by the state.

Bonner says, moving forward, the Tyre Nichols video will be added to the training.

“You tell the deputies, do your job with the way that you’re trained,” said Bonner, “looking at this video, being in law enforcement for over 40 years, I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Sheriff Bonner says the two suspended deputies had no previous disciplinary infractions.

Mayor Lee Harris released this statement in response to the suspension of two Shelby County Sheriff deputies:

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