MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A 22-year-old Army veteran filed suit Tuesday against five former officers who are accused of beating Tyre Nichols, saying that they attacked him three days before that deadly encounter, according to court records and WHBQ-TV.
In a complaint filed in federal court, attorneys for Monterrious Harris said the city of Memphis and officers with the since-disbanded SCORPION unit violated his civil rights during an incident at an apartment complex on Jan. 4. Lawyers said Harris was in the parking lot waiting for his cousin when his car was surrounded “by a large group of assailants wearing black ski-masks, dressed in black clothing, brandishing guns (and) other weapons, hurling expletives and making threats to end his life if he did not exit his car.”
Harris believed that he was being carjacked and tried to get away, though he was stopped by an unidentified obstruction about 5-10 feet behind his car, according to the lawsuit. He got out of the car with his hands up, “hoping that the men in black ski-masks would not shoot him and would simply take his vehicle,” attorneys said.
The people never identified themselves as law enforcement officers or asked Harris for his license or vehicle registration, according to the lawsuit.
Attorneys said Harris was punched, kicked and dragged across the concrete.
“The unrelenting beating Mr. Harris endured continued for approximately 1-2 minutes” before neighbors took notice, prompting officers to stop and handcuff Harris, according to the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Harris said that officers took him to jail with a bleeding head, a swollen eye and a severely bruised leg. A nurse at the jail ordered that he be taken to a hospital, attorneys said.
Harris is seeking $5 million in damages.
Named in the suit are Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; Emmitt Martin III, 30; Desmond Mills, 32; and Justin Smith, 28; who were fired last month from the Memphis Police Department and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and other crimes in connection to Nichols’ death.
“But for witnesses coming outside to observe after hearing Mr. Harris’ loud screams, Mr. Harris would likely have suffered the same fate as Mr. Nichols,” his attorneys said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday. “At a minimum, the assault would have lasted longer and produced more severe injuries.”
Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after video released by police showed officers beating him during a traffic stop a few blocks from his family’s home. An independent autopsy determined that the 29-year-old died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” WHBQ reported.
Six officers — including Bean, Haley, Martin, Mills and Smith — have been fired in connection with Nichols’ detainment. City attorney Jennifer Sink said Tuesday that seven other officers could also face discipline.
At a city council hearing Tuesday, city attorney Jennifer Sink said that a total of 13 officers could face discipline connected with Nichols’ death. Officers are expected to be notified about alleged department policy violations by the end of the week, with hearings following next week and written decisions after that, Sink said.
“Once we have completed that process then we can, at that point in time, provide basically all the materials that are involved,” she said.
Last month, authorities charged fired officers Tadarrius Bean, 24; Demetrius Haley, 30; Emmitt Martin III, 30; Desmond Mills, 32; and Justin Smith, 28; with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and other crimes in connection to Nichols’ death.
Two other Memphis police officers and two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been relieved from duty as authorities investigate the incident. Three Memphis Fire Department employees have also been fired.
In addition to the local investigation, federal and state authorities have also launched probes of the incident.
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