Former Memphis Police officer Demetrius Haley has been charged with second-degree murder in the January 7 death of Tyre Nichols. Some observers are now saying the deadly confrontation between Haley and Nichols could have been foreseen due to an incident that took place years before Haley was hired as a police officer.
In 2015, Haley was accused of taking part in the brutal beating of an inmate at a Shelby County, Tennessee, prison. The assault was so disturbing that all 34 inmates residing in the cellblock at the time signed a letter to the corrections director, warning of the potential for harm and asking for the matter to be investigated.
The letter reads, “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 inmates asked how they were supposed to feel “safe and secure when the staff members at the Shelby County Correctional Center are assaulting and threatening us?”
“Please put a stop to this madness,” the letter concluded.
Demetrius Haley had anger issues already. From the 2016 beating of a prison inmate as he was a Corrections Officer at that time. It was well known. You have to see that as a red flag and you know what he has anger issues. We can’t hire him. 🤦🏻♂️ 😡😢Memphis PD failed his family. pic.twitter.com/YWbrLJBkku
— Alex Russell (@AlexRus5306) February 2, 2023
Shelby County officials did not respond to a request for information about the investigation into the beating allegations, leaving it unclear whether Haley was disciplined due to the assault.
Unfortunately, there is no national database of officers who have resigned or been fired due to misconduct, so they can often apply for jobs in other police agencies and departments. However, there is a national database of officers who have lost their certification, which would not have made a difference in Haley’s case as his job at the county prison did not require police certification.
Haley has been charged alongside former officers Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith. All of the officers, except for Bean, have previous infractions in their work records, such as using minor physical force during an arrest and failing to report it and failing to report a domestic violence incident.
Another officer who participated in the arrest and beating of Nichols, Preston Hemphill, has been fired but not criminally charged. Hemphill initially failed a physical after being hired in 2019 and was placed in a civilian position within the department for several months.
All of the officers, including Haley, were eventually assigned to the department’s Scorpion Unit, a task force focused on repeat violent offenders. However, it has been accused of using violent and illegal tactics. The Scorpion Unit has now been permanently disbanded.
NAACP Memphis branch president Van Turner told reporters he believes Nichols’ death could have been prevented if Haley had not been hired by the Memphis Police Department.
He said, “The culture of violence and bravado and the lack of empathy for individuals is not only here in our neighborhoods and communities, but unfortunately also in our jails and prison system.”