Tyre Nichols’ family reflects on first court appearance of former officers charged with his murder

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 7:13 PM CST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Almost six weeks to the day after the Jan. 7 traffic stop that would result in the death of Tyre Nichols, Rodney and RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ parents, entered one of the courtrooms at 201 Poplar, awaiting the five men charged with his murder to enter behind them.

All five former Memphis police officers entered with their defense attorney: Demetrius Haley, Emmett Martin III, Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr, and Tadarius Bean.

Being an arraignment, court only lasted around ten minutes, but they were a tense few minutes.

All five issued a plea of “not guilty.”

“These five defendants are all entitled to fair trials, and that’s what we’re going to give them,” said Paul Hagerman with the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.

Hagerman was the prosecuting attorney during this hearing. He couldn’t divulge much on the case, as there are still parts of the investigation that are still ongoing.

“This is day one,” Hagerman said. “Some of the (defense) attorneys haven’t seen the evidence yet. Some of the evidence is still being collected... What I can tell you is that we are determined to see this through.”

Defense attorney Blake Ballin, who represents Desmond Mills Jr., issued a statement after the court had adjourned:

He said, in part, “I implore the public to be patient, to be cautious, in judging Mr. Mills... (Judgement) must be based on the facts of the law and not the raw emotions that our country is currently experiencing... Much has been said about the ways the system failed Mr. Nichols. I will work tirelessly to make sure that the system does not fail Mr. Mills.”

Outside 201 Poplar, the Wells gave their reaction to the hearing and the experience of sharing the room with the five men who are charged with the murder of their son.

“This is a glorious day,” Rodney Wells said. “This is the beginning of the process.”

His wife, RowVaughn, followed by saying, “I feel very numb right now... I’m waiting for somebody to wake me up... I know my son is gone. I know I’ll never see him again, but we have to start this process of justice.”

Hagerman said that with five defendants, logistical problems can arise, but the D.A.’s Office said they’re going to do “what is right.”

“We believe it’s important that everybody who took part in this criminality, everyone who did something criminal, is brought to justice in this case,” Hagerman said.

A sixth former officer, Preston Hemphill, was fired a week after the other five were charged with Nichols’ murder.

There are also seven additional, unknown officers who are still under investigation.

Three MFD personnel have also been fired, and two Shelby County deputies were recently suspended for five days without pay.

As for RowVaughn Wells, she said she’ll be going to every court appearance for these former officers to receive, as she puts it, “full justice” for her son.

“I want each and every one of those police officers to be able to look me in the face,” Wells said. “They haven’t done that yet. They couldn’t even do that today. They didn’t even have the courage to look at me in the face.”

The next court appearance for these five is set for May 1.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

Click here to report a spelling or grammar error. Please include the headline.