Prosecutors recommend 15 years in prison for ex-cop pleading guilty to killing Tyre Nichols

Former MPD officer surrenders certification to work in Tenn. law enforcement
Former MPD officer surrenders certification to work in Tenn. law enforcement(SCSO)
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 11:29 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2023 at 7:51 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Federal and state prosecutors have recommended that Desmond Mills serve 15 years in prison.

Mills pleaded guilty federal charges Thursday and is expected to plead guilty to state charges.

Mills, 31, is one of five former Memphis police officers charged with the murder of Tyre Nichols.

Mills pleaded guilty to two counts:

  • Using excessive force and failing to intervene in the assault
  • Conspiring to cover up his use of unlawful force by omitting material information and by providing false and misleading information to his supervisor and to others

Nichols, 29, died in the hospital several days after he was beaten during a traffic stop. The attack was captured on video.

According to his decertification request filed by Police Chief CJ Davis, Mills is the former officer seen on video striking Nichols with a baton three times on the night of his fatal beating.

Federal prosecutors say Mills admitted to these acts:

  • Mills admitted to repeatedly and unjustifiably striking Nichols with a baton and to failing to intervene in other officers’ use of force against Nichols. Mills said he watched another officer repeatedly punch Nichols in the head while two other officers restrained Nichols.
  • Mills admitted that he did not provide any medical aid to Nichols after the beating, though he knew that Nichols had a serious medical need. He did not alert MPD or Memphis Fire Department EMTs that Nichols had been struck in the head and body.
  • In addition, Mills participated in conversations with other officers in which they discussed, using force against Nichols, hitting Nichols to make him fall, and believing they were on the verge of killing Nichols when they saw that Nichols did not fall from the blows.
  • Mills admitted to making false statements in connection with the arrest of Nichols, including telling his supervisor that they had done “everything by the book” and providing false information in his statements to an MPD detective tasked with writing the incident report.
  • Finally, Mills submitted an MPD report that provided a false account of the force used on Nichols, including a claim that Mills saw Nichols “aggressively resisting” officers. Instead of admitting that he had seen an officer repeatedly punch Nichols in the head while Nichols was restrained by two other officers, Mills reported only that “Nichols was eventually put into custody.”

District Attorney Steve Mulroy says Mills has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of excessive force and obstruction of justice, as well as state charges related to Nichols’ death.

Mills has agreed to cooperate with both federal and state investigations, including civil rights investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The 15-year recommended sentence is pending a final decision made by Judge Mark Norris at an upcoming sentencing hearing.

Mills will plead guilty in state court at a later date, at which time Mulroy will agree to the sentence previously reached in federal court.

“I join Tyre’s family in saying this is a fair result, given Mr. Mills’ level of involvement, and his willingness to cooperate with us,” District Attorney Steve Mulroy said. “His cooperation will help us bring to justice all those criminally responsible while also identifying needs for systemic reform within the police department.”

The other four officers will face a federal trial scheduled for May 6, 2024.

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