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Fired Memphis police officer texted photo of Tyre Nichols to 5 people after brutal beating, documents say

Demetrius Haley took two photographs on his cellphone “while standing in front of the obviously injured subject after he was handcuffed,” records show.

A fired Memphis police officer involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols took photos of the 29-year-old after he was pepper-sprayed, kicked and hit by police, and texted at least one image to at least five people, new records show.

That revelation was contained in documents released Tuesday as part of a Memphis Police Department request to decertify the five officers charged in the brutal Jan. 7 assault on Nichols. Decertification means the former officers can no longer serve as police anywhere in the state.

Demetrius Haley, one of the five officers fired on Jan. 20, sent the photo, according to the documents.

He was also the officer who physically forced Nichols out of his vehicle during the initial traffic stop and deployed his chemical irritant spray “directly close up to the subject’s eyes,” documents from Memphis Police’s Inspectional Services Bureau said.

He used profanity, laughed and “bragged” after Nichols was beat, according to the documents.

On his personal cellphone, he took two photographs “while standing in front of the obviously injured subject,” meaning Nichols, “after he was handcuffed,” the documents said.

Haley “admitted” to sharing at least one photo in a text message with five people: a civilian employee, two Memphis police officers and a female acquaintance, the documents said.

During the administrative investigation, a sixth person was identified as also having received the same photograph, the documents said.

Haley violated police policies including personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty and excessive force/unnecessary force, according to police.

The dissemination of the photograph violated the department’s “Information Concerning Police Business” policy, which states “a member shall not communicate information relating to official police matters without prior approval or subpoena, except to authorized persons. A member shall treat the official business of the department as confidential,” according to the documents.

Haley joined the force in August 2020 and was previously accused of beating an inmate in Shelby County in a 2016 lawsuit.

In that case, he was accused of being one of three corrections officers who allegedly beat inmate Cordarlrius Sledge. The suit, which Sledge filed without a lawyer, was dismissed in 2018 after a judge found he had not properly served one of the defendants with a summons.

Haley was also found to be untruthful in his narrative of Nichols' arrest, the documents said.

“In your incident summary, you wrote that you heard your partner tell the individual, ‘Let my gun go!’ before he was taken to the ground,” the statement said. “You were also heard making the same statement on body-worn camera to your partners in the presence of witness officers. However, video evidence did not support your oral or written statement and your information was deemed untruthful.”

The statement further said: “You never told the driver the purpose of the vehicle stop or that he was under arrest. Audio from a body worn camera did not capture the driver using profanity or displaying any violent threats.”

“Your on-duty conduct was unjustly, blatantly unprofessional and unbecoming for a sworn public servant,” the document said. 

According to decertification documents for all the officers charged with second-degree murder — Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr and Justin Smith — none of their body cameras captured the entire incident, despite policies requiring them to activate it during all police encounters. 

Haley failed to activate his body camera during the first encounter with Nichols, though it was functioning properly, his documents said.

Martin took off his body camera at some point and placed it in his unmarked vehicle; Mills and Bean both at one point removed their body cameras and placed them on the trunk of a car; and Smith’s camera was not activated during his initial interaction with Nichols, the documents said.

Other officer violations

The documents also describe alleged departmental violations, which include excessive force, neglect of duty, truthfulness and personal conduct.

Martin was found to be untruthful in the police investigation, according to the documents. He reported in his incident summary of the arrest that Nichols “grabbed” his duty weapon before officers placed him on the ground, but video evidence didn’t corroborate that report, the documents said.

In his Garrity statement, a statement used by public employers during administrative investigations to ascertain whether misconduct has occurred, Martin “failed to disclose” that he punched the subject in the face and kicked him multiple times. In his statement to ISB investigators, he said he gave “body blows,” the documents said. 

Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, declined to comment on the documents and said he is gathering evidence.

Documents for Mills said when he went to speak with Nichols’ mother, “you and the supervisor did not obtain her contact information or refused to provide an accurate account of her son’s encounter with police or his condition.”

More coverage of the death of Tyre Nichols

He was accused of striking a “nonviolent subject” with a baton three times and pepper spraying him twice, actions all captured on video.

Mills' lawyer, Blake Ballin, declined to comment.

Bean’s documents said that he held Nichols down by one of his arms as his partners pepper sprayed him and “excessively” struck him with a baton multiple times. The documents said he failed to take reasonable action to “stop the excessive and unnecessary use of force.” 

In his Garrity statement, Bean admitted to striking Nichols with a closed fist two to three times in his face because he and his partners were unable to handcuff him, which was captured on video evidence, the documents said. 

It's not immediately clear if he has an attorney. NBC News was unable to reach Bean for comment.

Smith was also accused of restraining Nichols during the beating.

He was the only officer to have a statement placed in his administrative file.

In Smith’s written account of the incident, which was dated Jan. 19, he said he was on desk duty with a knee injury when a supervisor ordered him back on to patrol. When he heard that a suspect had been pepper sprayed and shot with stun gun, he called for medical help and responded to a call for officer assistance, according to the statement.

When he arrived at the scene, Smith said, he came upon an officer struggling with Nichols.

“I assisted that officer in our attempts to the take that suspect into custody,” Smith said. “The suspect was violent and would not comply.”

“It is my contention that I personally utilized the training and defensive tactics provided to me as a Memphis police officer in attempting to handcuff the suspect,” he said.

He added: “As much as I would like to set the record straight, based upon the inconsistencies and misstatements in the Statement of Charges given to me, upon advice of counsel, I am not allowed to make any statements surrounding the incident of January 7, 2020.”

The Memphis officer who oversaw an administrative hearing on the allegations wrote that Smith admitted striking Nichols — who the hearing officer described as “nonviolent” two to three times in the face with a closed first because he and another officer had been unable to handcuff him.

“You sprayed the subject with your chemical irritant spray and also held the individual’s arm while other officers kicked, punched and pepper sprayed him several times,” the officer wrote, adding that Smith’s action violated the department’s excessive use of force rules.

A message seeking comment left on a phone number listed under Smith’s name was not returned Tuesday. Court records do not list a lawyer for him.

None of the officers spoke during their administrative hearings or provided the hearing officer with a statement.

All five officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

A sixth officer was fired last week and seven more remain under investigation, a city official said Tuesday.

The president of the Memphis Police Association did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night. In an earlier public statement, Lt. Essica Cage-Rosario declined to comment on the officers’ termination because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

In statements included in the decertification documents, the union objected to the administrative hearings, saying pieces of evidence cited by the hearing officer — including body camera video and witness statements — hadn’t been provided to an association representative and a full investigation wasn’t complete.

“These are only a few examples of the GROSS violations of this officers’ right to due process,” the association said.