US policeman pleads guilty in beating death of Black man
November 3, 2023 03:00 AM
One of the five US police officers charged in the beating death of a young African-American man in the southern city of Memphis pleaded guilty Thursday, the Justice Department announced.
Bodycam footage of the January incident showed the officers, who are all Black, repeatedly kicking and punching Tyre Nichols, 29, during a traffic stop close to his home in Memphis. Nichols died in hospital three days later.
The guilty plea by Desmond Mills comes as part of a settlement of pending state and federal charges and marks a course reversal given that he had pleaded not guilty along with the other four officers in February when they appeared in court in Tennessee.
Already facing felony charges from the state of Tennessee, the five police officers were indicted in September by a federal grand jury in Memphis.
Mills, 33, pleaded guilty Thursday to two of four counts in the indictment -- excessive force and failing to intervene as well as an attempted coverup -- according to a statement from the Justice Department.
The Shelby County District Attorney's office said in a statement that the plea was "part of a global settlement of all pending state and federal charges and comes after Mills pled guilty this morning to these federal charges."
The other four officers have pleaded not guilty to federal charges.
Lawyers for Nichols's family, who are suing the city of Memphis in civil court over his death, said the Mills plea confirmed he was not "an individual actor" in the crime.
"These officers, including Mills, acted at the direction of a policy that not only violated the civil rights of innocent civilians but which caused needless pain to many," they said in a statement.
The trial of the other four police officers is scheduled for May 2024, according to the statement.
Nichols was stopped for an alleged traffic violation and was beaten viciously by the officers, in scenes recorded in body camera and security camera footage that triggered outrage when made public.
Vice President Kamala Harris attended Nichols' funeral in February and Nichols' family members were invited to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address in Washington several days later.