The federal lawsuit was announced on Wednesday by civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, as well as by local legal counsel, and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The full list of defendants named in the complaint includes the City of Memphis, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, and multiple officials.
Named officers include Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Desmond Mills, Jr., Tadarrius Bean, Preston Hemphill, and DeWayne Smith. Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge, and Michelle Whitaker—all Memphis Fire employees—are also defendants in the suit.
The specific counts cited in the complaint include unreasonable stop, excessive force, failure to intervene to prevent excessive force, deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and more.
“Far from being the result of the actions of five rogue police officers, the events of January 7, 2023 were the culmination of a Department-sanctioned rampage by the unqualified, untrained, and unsupervised SCORPION Unit carrying out an unconstitutional mandate without any fear of retribution or consequence because of an acquiescence and acceptance of tolerated unconstitutional conduct that had been fostered since the SCORPION Unit’s inception,” Romanucci said, adding that Nichols shouldn’t have been stopped by police to begin with, nor should he have been subjected to being “brutally beaten.”
When sharing the news on social media, Crump said the $550 million lawsuit would “hopefully prevent any more unjust deaths.”
The “abhorrent and reprehensible conduct” of Memphis officials resulted in the world seeing “a gruesome, barbaric display of police brutality,” the suit’s preliminary statement reads.
“The innocent victim was a 29-year-old father of one, who was on his way home to have dinner with his parents,” the lawyer added.
To read the 139-page complaint in full, click here.