Tennessee commission holds off on decertifying former officer charged in Tyre Nichols death
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee commission that enforces standards for police recommended Thursday that proceedings to bar an officer charged in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols from serving in state law enforcement be suspended until his legal case is resolved.
A panel of the Tennessee Police Officer Standards and Training Commission in Nashville agreed to a request by a lawyer for former Memphis officer Tadarrius Bean to hold off on any recommendation to strip Bean of his state police certification.
Bean, 24, is one of five officers charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and other offenses in Nichols’ death. He has pleaded not guilty, as have the other four officers, and their case is being handled in Shelby County Criminal Court.
Lawyer Timothy Taylor asked the commission to place Bean’s certification on inactive status as his criminal case proceeds. Should the case’s result be favorable for Bean, he could apply for reinstatement to the Memphis Police Department with his certification in place, Taylor said.
If Bean fails to successfully defend himself against the charges, then he would be subject to official decertification by the commission, Taylor said.
The full commission is set to vote Friday on the recommendation.
Nichols was pulled out of his car during a Jan. 7 traffic stop and tried to run away from officers before he was punched, kicked and hit with a baton just feet from his Memphis home, according to police video released by the city. The officers said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, but no proof of that accusation has emerged in video or police documents.
Nichols, 29, died three days later in a hospital. An autopsy report showed he died from blows to the head.
Nichols was Black. All five officers charged also are Black. They have been fired by the Memphis Police Department.
The department asked the commission to bar all five officers from working as police in the state. The commission already has decertified Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith and approved the decision by Desmond Mills to surrender his certification. Haley, Martin and Smith have appealed, said Kevin Walters, a spokesperson for the commission.
Two former officers who were not charged are awaiting a decision on whether they will be barred from working in law enforcement in Tennessee: Preston Hemphill, who was terminated after firing a stun gun at Nichols during the traffic stop; and Dewayne Smith, the supervising lieutenant who arrived on scene after the beating, and who retired instead of being fired.
A seventh police employee who was fired has not been publicly named.
The Nichols case prompted nationwide protests and renewed an intense public discussion about police brutality.
After the officers’ first court hearing Feb. 17, Bean’s attorney in criminal court, John Keith Perry, said Bean was doing his job and asserting multiple times that the officer “never struck” Nichols.
However, Bean admitted to police investigators he punched Nichols two or three times in the face because officers weren’t able to handcuff Nichols. The admission was noted in a filing by the police department to the Tennessee commission.
Sainz reported from Memphis, Tennessee.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.