Officer in Tyre Nichols arrest accused of brutality as jailer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Years before Memphis Police officer Demetrius Haley pulled Tyre Nichols from his car on Jan. 7, setting in motion a deadly confrontation, Haley was accused of taking part in the savage beating of an inmate at the Shelby County jail.
The 2015 assault of the inmate was so disturbing that 34 others — the entire cellblock — signed a letter to the corrections director.
“We are truly asking that this matter gets looked into before someone gets hurt really bad or lose their life because of some unprofessional officers,” the letter stated.
The warning from dozens of inmates is the clearest indication yet that one of the officers who took part in the violent beating of Nichols had an event in his past that should have raised concerns before he was hired as a police officer.
The letter asks how the inmates are supposed to feel “safe and secure when the staff members at the Shelby County Correctional Center are assaulting and threatening us?”
It concludes, “Please put a stop to this madness.”
Shelby County did not respond to a request Friday seeking information about its investigation into the beating allegations, so it is unclear if Haley was disciplined or cleared of the assault. An email was sent Friday to a police spokesperson asking if the department knew about the incident when Haley was hired.
The former officer has been charged with second-degree murder in Nichols' death, along with ex- officers Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith. All the officers except Bean have infractions in their work records. Policy violations include using minor physical force during an arrest and failing to fill out a form about it; failing to report a domestic violence situation; and a car crash, records show.
The prior accusations against Haley came to light because the inmate, Cordarlrius Sledge, filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 against him. It was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, because Sledge had failed to file a grievance with the jail.
Haley continued to work for the Division of Corrections until hired by Memphis Police in 2020, at a time when the department was lowering its standards for recruits in an attempt to fill vacancies. According to records in his personnel file, a previous application to the police department was rejected, but the reason for that rejection is blacked out.