Desmond Mills Jr., one of five police officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, pleaded guilty to federal charges and agreed to plead guilty to related state charges as part of a plea deal on Thursday. On Jan. 7, five Memphis police officers pulled Nichols over for a traffic stop, where they doused him in pepper spray and beat him, leading to his death.
A federal grand jury charged Mills and the other cops with using excessive force, resulting in Nichols’ death, helping each other in that excessive force, not stopping each other when the brutality became too much, and conspiring to cover it all up. Mills pleaded guilty to using excessive force and not intervening, as well as to conspiracy by withholding information and misleading his supervisor, and civil rights and conspiracy charges.
Mills gave his plea to U.S. District Court Judge Mark S. Norris, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. His plea agreement comes with the government asking the court to sentence him to no more than 15 years in prison. He has no possibility of parole.
The other officers — Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, and Justin Smith — are scheduled to stand trial on May 6.
Mills’ plea agreement mentions the other cops repeatedly. In addition to admitting to hitting Nichols with his baton, Mills confirmed that he did not intervene with the other officers’ actions. He claimed he watched other officers restrain Nichols while another officer punched him in the head. He admitted that he did not administer medical aid, nor did he call EMTs for help.
Mills stated that he and the other officers discussed how they were hitting Nichols, attempting to make him fall, and that they allegedly talked about how they worried they’d kill him when he didn’t fall. Mills told his supervisor that the cops had done “everything by the book” and that his reports about the incident contained false info, including a false claim that Nichols was “aggressively resisting” the officers’ force. Rather than report on the violence that he and his fellow officers allegedly carried out on Nichols, he wrote, “Nichols was eventually put into custody.”
Footage of the attack showed the officers issuing Nichols 71 commands, many of which were impossible to carry out, such as showing them his hands when they were restrained and telling him to get on the ground when he already was. All five of the cops, who were fired a few weeks after the incident, initially pleaded not guilty to Nichols’ death. The judge presiding over that case last month denied some of the cops’ requests to have separate trials, according to The Associated Press.