Ex-Memphis officer charged in the death of Tyre Nichols previously accused of beating inmate

Demetrius Haley, one of the five Memphis police officers charged with murder after beating Tyre Nichols, was accused of brutally assaulting an inmate at a county prison previously but had the charges dropped two years before he joined the force.

(Video Credit: ABC24 Memphis)

In 2015, Haley is said to have savagely assaulted an inmate at the Shelby County prison. The beating was so vicious that the entire cellblock of 34 prisoners signed a letter addressed to the corrections director, Fox News reported. It is unknown what disciplinary or corrective actions were or weren’t taken against Haley following the beating.

“We are truly asking that this matter gets looked into before someone gets hurt really bad or lose their life because of some unprofessional officers,” the letter reportedly asserted.

The letter and the incident should have been taken into account when Haley was hired as a police officer, however, it evidently wasn’t. The mistake culminated in the death of Nichols three days after the officers mercilessly beat him following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.

The letter asked the corrections director how they were supposed to feel “safe and secure when the staff members at the Shelby County Correctional Center are assaulting and threatening us?”

The letter concluded with a plea, “Please put a stop to this madness.”

According to Fox News, “There is no national database of officers found guilty of misconduct who resign or are fired, meaning in a lot of cases they can apply for jobs in other police agencies and departments. There is a national database for officers who lose their certification — the equivalent of their professional license to be a police officer in a particular state. That wouldn’t have made a difference in Haley’s case because his job at the county prison didn’t require police certification.”

Haley, along with the other officers involved, has been charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death. The other four officers are Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith. All of the men involved have infractions on their records except for Bean. Those infractions on the officers’ records include using minor physical force during an arrest and failing to fill out a form about it; failing to report a domestic violence situation; and a car crash, according to records.


(Video Credit: Daily Mail | WARNING: Graphic Content)

A sixth police officer named Preston Hemphill was fired over Nichols’ arrest, beating, and death. He was not criminally charged.

An inmate named Cordarlrius Sledge filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 against Haley and two others, Fox News noted. Haley and another officer were accused of punching the inmate and a third man was said to have slammed his head into the floor. The suit wound up being dismissed on procedural grounds because Sledge didn’t file a grievance with the prison. However, that suit brought Haley’s record to light.

Haley was employed by the Division of Corrections until the Memphis Police hired him in 2020. He was brought on during a period when the department reportedly lowered its standards for recruits because it was short on officers. A previous application by Haley had been rejected. It is unknown why.

Van Turner, who is the president of the NAACP’s Memphis branch and is running for mayor, contended that Tyre Nichols’ death might not have happened if the police department hadn’t hired Haley.

“The culture of violence and bravado and the lack of empathy for individuals is not only here in our neighborhoods and communities, but unfortunately also in our jails and prison system,” he claimed.

Haley and the other officers were all assigned to the Scorpion unit, which has now been disbanded. It stands for “Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods.” Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis started the anti-crime task force when she took the position in June 2021. It was meant to nail repeat offenders. The unit has previously been accused of violent and illegal tactics.

He also reportedly took pictures of Nichols with his cell phone after he was cuffed and on the ground. Haley then reportedly sent that image to six people, including a pair of police officers, a department employee, and a civilian acquaintance, according to the Daily Mail. The action violated police protocol requiring confidentiality in arrests.

(Video Credit: ABC 7 Chicago)

Haley is not speaking out publicly over his role in Nichols’ death. He declined to make a statement at his disciplinary hearing.

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