One of the former Memphis police officers charged in the murder of Tyre Nichols texted a photo of Nichols to multiple people after the unarmed, 29-year-old Black man was brutally beaten by police last month, according to new state documents released Tuesday.
Haley admitted in a statement to authorities that he shared a photo with at least five people, including two Memphis officers and a female acquaintance. An administrative investigation later found that a photo of Nichols, who died three days later, was shared with a sixth person, records show.
“On your personal cellphone, you took two photographs while standing in front of the obviously injured subject after he was handcuffed,” the agency wrote as part of a 104-page report.
The commission noted that Haley’s actions violated a Memphis police regulation concerning confidential information. Since Haley shared a photo of Nichols over text message, he violated a regulation that says officers cannot share information concerning official police matters “without prior approval or subpoena, except to authorized people,” according to the document. The Memphis Police Department also prohibits its officers from using their personal cellphones while performing police duties.
“Your on-duty conduct was unjustly, blatantly unprofessional and unbecoming for a sworn public servant,” the department wrote of Haley, according to state documents.
The document is part of the process to decertify Haley and four other now-fired officers, all of whom are Black. Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean are facing second-degree murder and other charges. A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, who is White, was fired last week and prosecutors said they are considering charges. A seventh officer, whom the department has not publicly named, was recently “relieved from duty.”
The process to decertify Haley and the other four officers charged so that they can no longer work as police officers in the state was signed off on by Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis last month. A hearing has yet to be scheduled for the decertification process.
Mike Stengel, an attorney for Haley, declined to comment to The Washington Post early Wednesday.
The news of the agency’s report was first reported by the New York Times.
The release of the documents, which offer the most detailed account of each officer’s actions the night of the beating, came the same day that Nichols’s parents attended the State of the Union address. President Biden acknowledged his guests, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, during his Tuesday night speech and urged lawmakers to hold police accountable when they blatantly violate public trust.
“What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often,” Biden said. “We have to do better. Give law enforcement the real training they need. Hold them to higher standards. Help them succeed in keeping us safe.”
The president added, “Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mom true: Something good must come from this.”
At a Memphis City Council meeting on Tuesday, officials indicated that as many as 13 Memphis police officers could be disciplined for their role in Nichols’s beating. Some of the seven additional officers who could be disciplined were not at the scene of the beating, the police chief said.
According to the state documents, Haley was driving an unmarked vehicle and wearing a hoodie over his head when the officer “forced the driver out of his vehicle while using loud profanity.” Haley then pepper-sprayed Nichols directly in his eyes, records show.
“You never told the driver the purpose of the vehicle stop or that he was under arrest,” the report says.
The documents state that Haley — who had been previously reprimanded by the police department in 2021 — did not have his body camera on at the time Nichols was stopped at the intersection of East Raines and Ross roads, and that the officer was “on an active cellphone call where the person overheard the police encounter.” After Nichols ran from police and was apprehended again, Haley kicked the 29-year-old in his torso while other officers were handcuffing him, according to records.
“After the subject was placed in custody, [you] and other officers were captured on body worn camera making multiple unprofessional comments, laughing, and bragging about your involvement,” the department wrote as part of its charges against Mills, according to state documents.
Memphis police said Mills later admitted that he did not provide immediate medical aid to Nichols “and walked away and decontaminated yourself from chemical irritant spray.” Authorities also accused Mills of failing to give RowVaughn Wells an accurate description of what happened to her son.
The report outlines the actions of the other officers. Video evidence does not corroborate the claims from Martin that Nichols tried to snatch his gun, according to the documents. Instead, Nichols appeared calm and polite on body-cam footage as Martin used profanity and threatened to knock out the man, records show.
A hearing officer found Smith’s claim that Nichols was “violent and would not comply” to be false, and that the officer punched Nichols two or three times in the face because they had trouble handcuffing the 29-year-old. And Bean allegedly held Nichols by one arm while Nichols was pepper-sprayed and beaten with a baton.
Before Nichols’s parents attended the State of the Union, Wells told the 19th, a nonprofit news outlet, that her son’s death should push lawmakers toward more police reform.
“They need to see, they need to see what happens to families when these tragic incidents happen,” she said.
The death of Tyre Nichols
The latest: The Justice Department is launching a review of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies and practices. Each of the five former Memphis police officers pleaded not guilty in Tyre Nichols’ death. One of the officers texted a photo of bloodied Tyre to colleagues, according to records.
What has Memphis police footage revealed?: The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has sparked a complex dialogue on institutional racism in policing. Some of the most haunting videos came from SkyCop cameras.
Who was Tyre Nichols?: The 29-year-old father was pepper-sprayed, punched and kicked by Memphis cops after a January traffic stop. He was pronounced dead at a hospital three days after his arrest. At Tyre Nichols’ funeral service, his family said they are focused on getting justice.
What is the Scorpion unit?: After the fallout from the brutal beating, Memphis police shut down the Scorpion unit.