“The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and I are deeply saddened and disgusted by the actions of the five former Memphis police officers,” Sheriff Rick Staly said today in a statement issued in late morning, as the nation reacted with shock to a video showing the wanton brutality of five Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop on Jan. 7. Nichols, 29, died three days later from the injuries he suffered in the beating.
The Memphis Police Department has yet to fully explain the reason for the traffic stop. Earlier reports suggested he had been pulled over on suspicions of reckless driving. The video shows five officers, all Black, yanking Nichols out of his car as he repeatedly protested (“I didn’t do anything”). After he fled on foot, the officers are seen kicking Nichols in the head, pepper-spraying him, bludgeoning him with a baton, and punching him repeatedly as one of the officers held him.
Nichols, who weighed 145 pounds and suffered from Crohn’s disease, is not seen resisting. He cried for his mom. He was unarmed.
The five officers–Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and
Justin Smith–face numerous charges, including second degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping. They have been fired. They were members of a street-crime unit referred to as “Scorpion,” a paramilitary-style acronym for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods.
According to a Washington Post database, 1,096 people were shot and killed by police in 2022, a record. The database does not include police-involved killings using other means than guns, as was the case with Nichols.
“Our deepest condolences are sent to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols whose lives have been forever changed because of this senseless act of violence,” Staly said in the statement. “Those five officers have undoubtedly reduced public trust in law enforcement, both in Memphis and across the country. The vast majority of law enforcement officers I have come to know in my many years of law enforcement are kind and compassionate professionals – and I believe we stand together in the fact that those officers’ actions were appalling and acted contrary to the Constitution and everything we believe in.”
Staly added: “I want to assure our residents that their Sheriff’s Office deputies are trained from day one in tactics of de-escalation, guardianship policing, our duty to intervene, and our bottom-line philosophy – ‘An honor to serve, a duty to protect’ everyone!”
Staly’s statement is backed up by a solid record that contrasts with neighboring counties’ officer-involved incidents.
The last time a civilian died in an officer-involved shooting or killing in Flagler County, involving local law enforcement, goes back to December 2012, when sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Troy Evan Gordon, 32, who lived with his mother and was having a mental episode. Deputies were cleared of wrongdoing.
In 2014, U.S. Marshals shot and killed an unarmed Corey Tanner as he was coming out of a house in Espanola. Tanner had been a fugitive at the time. Marshals were there to arrest him, with sheriff’s deputies in a supporting role. The FDLE cleared the marshals of wrongdoing. (See: “A Bottle Of Cadillac Cologne Is Mistaken For a Gun, and Cory Tanner Is Shot Dead.”)
Since 2012, local law enforcement–Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies, Bunnell and Flagler Beach police–have maintained a record of no fatalities in encounters with civilians despite numerous confrontations with armed individuals, with non-lethal techniques and negotiations resolving the situation each time. The exception was in 2020, when deputies opened fire and wounded Steven Barneski (a white man) after he’d armed himself in a car, with a woman next to him, and refused to comply with deputies’ orders. He survived, was sentenced on three felonies stemming from that incident, and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.
“As a 4-Diamond Accredited Agency, we work to ensure your trust in law enforcement every day by ensuring these guidelines and our policies are followed,” Staly said of his agency’s de-escalation protocols.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis has been mum on the killing of Tyre Nichols, Staly’s statement joined a growing chorus of denunciations across Florida, from other police chiefs, of the Memphis officers’ actions. The statements began even before the video was issued.
“Based on what we know, the actions and conduct of the officers involved were not in keeping with the high standards of conduct demanded by our profession,” Keith Touchberry, chief of police in Fellsmere, located in Indian River County, and president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, said in a written statement Thursday evening, according to the Florida Phoenix.
“We do know that the actions of these officers on that day are not representative of the true character and professionalism of the overwhelming majority of the dedicated law enforcement professionals serving their communities across our country,” Touchberry said.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has called their behavior “heinous, reckless, and inhumane.” The Phoenix reported that Tallahassee civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Nichols’ family, has viewed the footage, Fox News reported. “It is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous. It is violent,” Crump said.
He compared the video to that of the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, saying Nichols had been tased, pepper-sprayed and restrained.
Aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had not yet responded to the Phoenix’s request for comment. But, the news site reported, DeSantis’ reaction to the unrest that followed the police murder of George Floyd in 2020 was to denounce calls for police reform. He pushed through the Florida Legislature an “anti-riot” law that a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional, ruling that it would criminalize peaceful protest.
As recently as Thursday, DeSantis called for legislation to stave off reforms that would allow more criminal suspects to win release without paying cash bail. In his second inaugural address on Jan. 3, the governor vowed: “We will always remain a law-and-order state. We will always support law enforcement and we will always reject soft-on-crime policies that put our communities at risk.”
From what I know of Sheriff Staley. I believe he stands by what he says. But as far as the culture American policing, his good record and words can’t stand up to it. It’s almost as if the brutality gods prayers were answered that it wasn’t white cops. Like this makes and even paling field or something.
Its interesting how many more egregious acts of violence we’ve seen white police officers inflict on defenseless people, but because these heinous acts were perpetuated by a group of black cops suddenly the blue wall has a moral compass/conscience. What a farce! It takes a “black on black crime” so to speak for all law enforcement to suddenly see the light??? What a joke! It’s the same playbook with different scenarios. Anything horrible these black officers learned was taken straight from the books of their slave patrol masters.
Too bad these so-called officers found out the the blue wall and the thin blue line only works for those with translucent skin, that shows the cold blood that runs through their blue veins.
Hey, this was Memphis, TN, not Palm Coast, FL, but Palm Coast is growing. With this growth there have been drive by shootings & drug house raids, I just hope we never experience similar on a rural scale for this kind of news story ?
Kind of hard for Staly not to mention Tyre Nichols when the underlying theme is to assure the community that FCSO continues to strive to stay on the right side of handling anything as any crisis arises. we all shouldn’t get worked up over Staly making this level of a public service announcement.
Thank you Sheriff Staly for speaking out and telling those in Flagler County that behavior is unacceptable.
Damien Esmond says
Sheriff Staly Is the Best! every county across the land wants the one in charge to have his sense of professionalism. I feel like I am raising my child in Mayberry (A fictitious 1950’s community of the Andy Griffest show) , i.e.: the way America is supposed to be.
You mean “lily white” just like Mayberry, don’t you, Damien?
I canlt imagine the pain that this mother has to endure, watching that video play over and over and over again, day in and day out.
The beating of Tyre Nichols and others before him was horrible and heart wrenching and nothing ever gets done about it. Bad cops need to be held accountable in short order for their actions and I’m glad those 5 are going to be tried for murder. What I don’t understand is why the emt first responders just stood around and did nothing. They need to be severely punished and their licenses taken away.
Who ever thought we Americans would be glued to our tv sets watching an innocent person being savagely beaten to death!!! This country is sure hitting an all time low and people better pay more attention to what’s going on with this violence and particularly what;s going on with the leaders (so calles) of this country that don’t do anything about these things.
Thank you Sheriff Staly for separating yourself and how you train your officers from the way these guys were trained here. People can complain about crime and violence but I am actually impressed with how they handle themselves. Just how many times I would have expected faster responses to crimes in our city but they wait and carefully handle situations to always try to make sure every one goes home or jail. That really makes me feel safer in this city. There is always the possibility of a bad apple, that’s what keeps me alert.
Deborah Coffey says
Good for our Sheriff. He is consistent about bad policing. Ron DeSantis? Well, he doesn’t care as long as he looks like a tough guy for his White, Christian Nationalist base.
The more DeSantis opens his mouth the less votes he will get if and when he decides to run for President. America doesn’t need another racists President.
““As a 4-Diamond Accredited Agency, we work to ensure your trust in law enforcement every day by ensuring these guidelines and our policies are followed,” Staly said of his agency’s de-escalation protocols.”
That’s wonderful to hear. So how’s this man’s leg doing? https://flaglerlive.com/181294/brandon-leohner/
Concerned Citizen says
Not to mention the other multiple issues he’s had. Deputies beating people and getting deals. Deputies showing up for work drunk and getting deals. Deputies getting DUI’s and getting deals. The list goes on and on. Excuses are made. And Marshall Earp continues to take credit for the work the women and men are doing on the street. Why just the other day he was right in the middle of a multi agency chase. I guess he figured he was the only one capable.
Apparently the Accreditation agency does not investigate internal behavior. Or moral. Because that ranking would beg to differ. Yet he continues to get re-elected. And spend more money on surveillance. And multi million dollar buildings.
Here we go again. This time Black on Black. People of color are targets of crazy whites and all the police dept. Jim Crowe again, shot and kill African Americans and most of the time the police will get away. Police murdering people is increasing. We as African Americans are always targets always have been. Now all cops are killing us. When cops are ambushed am happy. The people who ambush cops do sign their own death certificates. Cops are not held accountable enough for murdering innocent people. Much more to say, it is best for me to close my comments. Very sad situation.
I hope you like your peaceful home. Until it gets invaded by someone bent on harming you or your family, and the police are to busy getting ambushed to respond.
Oh yeah, forgot to mention. It was a White cop that initiated the tazing and made the statement ” I hope they stomp his a**!” That was just before the full blown attack starts as they drag the victim from his car. For some reason he’s blurred out in the early footage. That all black Scorpion unit was operating just as it was directed. All black unit makes it difficult for black suspects/victims to cry racism when all goes bad. Pay attention to the dribble of news in the next few days. Social media is already exposing weakness in the Departments explanations, the medias reporting and the political implications.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Quite a stretch bringing in DeSantis onto this.
marty barrett says
Ok, he denounced it, but what else could someone credibly do after viewing such video(s). Doesn’t necessarily deserve a pat on the back for that. He, along with what seems to be a growing number of other top law enforcement officials throughout this state, still hold themselves out as macho, chest-thumping, freedom fighters where everyone that they think did something wrong is a scumbag who must be thrown in jail or prison. All the Green Roof Inn nonsense and press conferences called over capture of jaywalkers is part of this divisive culture of us vs them that this Sheriff continually foments. That, in turn, attracts a certain type, generally speaking, to apply to become a cop in the first place. This aggressive culture leads to distrust in the public, and to the inevitability of something like this happening here as well, notwithstanding the amount/type of training the deputies receive. But tough talk and red meat jingoism is what gets these gunslingers re-elected, not pragmatism and restraint, so there really isn’t an opportunity nor an incentive for them to change. Too bad
The dude says
Did he make a similar statement about George Floyd?
Wonder what colored his opinion to finally speak out?
The sheriff did so here.
The dude says
I stand corrected.
Joseph Barand says
I think some of the “KEY” indicators of problem policing include officers with shaved heads, beards and tattoos, all intended to scare and intimate the public. We never saw such problems until the militarization of police departments was initiated. At that time we lost the concept of protection and service. What ever happened to a single Deputy conducting traffic stops, today we see a dozen Deputies providing backup in WAR gear. I think it’s past time to redsign the entire concept of law enforcement.
I have a beard and tattoos… I also teach children and coach various athletics. A little judgy don’t you think? Maybe I should quit because those things make me inherently bad.
David R. Talbert says
Come ride for 1 day and you WILL see what LEO needs to deal with on a daily basis,,,I dare you!
Sludge Hammer says
Charlie Manson had a beard and tattoos. He definitely was NOT Police material.
Jack Howell says
As a law enforcement professional, I am disgusted and outraged. This is not policing! These guys are totally out of control and are nothing more than heavy-handed thugs. I would be curious to see how many violations of the Memphis Police Department’s “Use of Force” policy complaints have appeared in these guys’ personnel records since they became police officers. Do we see patterns emerging? I am sure this is not a first-time event for these thugs. Thank God they finally got caught! The Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis handled this situation well. Let’s hope the Memphis Police Department looks into the personnel files of all of the Department’s personnel to see how many more potential “red flags” should be monitored.
Magnum P.I. says
This is an interesting and insightful perspective Jack. Especially when you suggest, “potential red flags should be monitored.” I agree… to an extent, however who else do feel should be monitored and why? What methods would you use and how far would you go? Assuming you are the CEO and founder of Teens-In-Flight and since you are admittedly a “law enforcement professional” with a military background (public info), can you guarantee the public that your company Teens-In-Flight has never been used in the past or present to monitor citizens from above? As a law abiding citizen I’ve had some very interesting things happen to me on the ground while “coincidentally” during a few of these incidents along with leaving or arriving at my residence, your plane was either circling or passing by at the same time. In addition, during the times that I’ve witnessed this, most teens would be in school and not in an airplane.
I encourage anyone who may have been harassed or followed on the ground to listen and look for a circling plane nearby. Download the app Flightradar24 and check the tail number. Again Jack, this may be just a “coincidence” however it could be cleared up by either a direct response here in the public comment section if you read this or perhaps by an inquisitive journalist.
Jack Howell says
This is an interesting question. First and foremost, Teens-In-Flight has never used our aircraft or pilots to monitor citizens from above. We do not do any surveillance on anybody, period. Teens-In-Flight does what the title and mission statement stand for. We train students who have a passion for flying and want to earn a Private Pilot license.
My comments about law enforcement and their issue with heavy-handed police officers are logical. Police chiefs should know who their problem employees are. Internal Affairs should keep total awareness of all violators of the department regulations, especially those who are frequently the recipient of use of force violations. These violators should be offered remediation programs to prevent further violations. They should be terminated if they fail to heed and continue disruptive behavior.
Magnum P.I. says
Thank You for clearing that up Jack. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my observant, “street smart” nature runs both horizontally and vertically. I completely agree with your second paragraph and relieved to hear your response in the former. It sounds like you’re in it from the heart and for the right reasons. Thank you for your service.
Tired of it says
Paranoid much? Why would anybody be “monitoring” you?
Magnum P.I. says
@Tired of it
“Paranoid much?” Ha! What 1970’s rock are you living under? Tell that to all the activists, journalists, Union rights workers, etc., who are systematically followed, harassed or even worse.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Serve and Protect, not to Intimidate and Punish.
Why is it a crime to lie to the police, but ok for the police and our government to lie to us?
Timothy I thought the police department was made to serve and protect the white folks and intimidate, punish, and kill the black folks. Isn’t that is why the department was established during the slavery days? You know, to keep the colored people under strict control and to kill slaves if they tried to run away.
Anthony Fennick’s Mom says
My heart has been breaking for the mother of this young man. Loosing a child is the worst pain imaginable! But, having your child die due to someone else’s fault and actions makes this pain that much more sharper.
Sure, Rick tries everything that he can to be in any kind of press release as usual. He says, he is “disgusted”.. well what does he call, allowing his “perfect” little department to stand by and watch with their own eyes someone running a triple digit fever for FIVE CONSECUTIVE DAYS and doing NOTHING about it??!! LITERALLY, cooking from the inside out, to the point of falling into a major seizure, THEN he was FINALLY taken to the hospital! Where he had to be put on life support due to becoming BRAIN DEAD! And what does he do?.. he investigates HIS OWN department and of course finds no kind of fault of their own. That joke of an investigation is just like, asking two toddlers “who took the last cookie”? They both look around as if they have no clue of what is going on and the guilty one points at the other. Just because he was not caught on video being beaten to death, does NOT mean that he was not killed from the inside out on video that has been said that is not “allowed” to be shown. All this, under Rick’s watch. He’s not a sheriff, he’s a politician, he only knows how to manipulate and lie to be able to keep his fan base clapping. So you’re no different than them, they just got caught red handed is all. It may be 4 years ago on, 09 February. BUT it is not, nor will it EVER be forgotten because I will always remind others of what and how this occurred. Also, I will never stop until we get Justice for Anthony Fennick.. and TRUST me we WILL get Justice for my SON!
I am so sorry! I knew a neighbor who had no idea about how to reduce a fever, and when her son had continuous days of 106 to 112 fever temps, it damaged his whole body and mind. He became a paraplegic, wheelchair bound and reliant on others to feed, bathe and take care of him. He ended up being put in a state home when his mother could no longer take care of him. So sad. Every prisoner deserves a basic health care, including taking fever reducing medications like aspirin or tylenol. Shame on Staley and his staff.
@FCSO has a good record on use of force — Staly is a good cop
But about this,““As a 4-Diamond Accredited Agency…” I’ll repeat:
@Congratulations Sheriff Staly
on your election to Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce for law enforcement agencies, etc:
Looking forward to a 4-Diamond report about his boys and girls — and Mullins’ 01/06/21 school trip…
Each and every one of us can, and should, be able to condemn the horrendous and extremely violent and unlawful use of force by those now fired officers. We should all easily be able to condemn the indifference and lack of immediacy to aid that severely injured man in custody by the now fired EMTs from the fire department who showed up at the scene. We should be able to comprehend the potential negative impact within a city like Memphis, if not the desired impact, of naming a police specialty team SCORPION. When one thinks of a scorpion, don’t we all think of something that has a poison stinger and has the potential to kill a person who is stung? I commend Sheriff Staly and all other police administrators who have publicly stated their anger, disgust, criticism, etc. after seeing what all America has had to see on those videos. It is not hard at all to do so. What IS more difficult, is changing the culture that is so ingrained and prevalent in many law enforcement agencies. Our nation’s local, state and federal law enforcement can and must do better to “protect and serve”. There are many, many good and decent, honest, ethical, non-violent and abusive law enforcement officers out there working dilligently to protect and serve each and every day. I know… I like to think that I was one of them. I served in law enforcement for more than 29 years, was never once disciplined, never did I ever believe that I crossed the line and used more force than was legally necessary to effect an arrest, of which I made hundreds and hundreds of arrests over the course of my career as a line officer, a supervisor of other officers, and finally an administrator overseeing various law enforcement functions.
A couple of things that I would like to see come to fruition all across America that I believe would help make policing more fair and transparent are 1) being much more selective and scrutinize even more on former military applicants. While I don’t believe the majority of military applicants to police agencies tend to end up being more aggressive or having violent tendencies, the mindset of military force and what is legally authorized and acceptable as a civilian law enforcement officer is like night and day. Some cannot or will not be able to transition from a military mindset after becoming a law enforcement officer, and that can, and has led to many incidents like what we have recently seen in various agencies across the U.S. 2) I believe it is critical that law enforcement agencies return to community oriented policing so officers can spend more time interacting with and getting to know the citizens in the communities where they work. Having officers actually live in those same communities also helps. Citizens need to be seen by law enforcement as equal and essential partners. Without the cooperation and input of those who live in a community, no law enforcement agency can do the job effectively, it is just impossible. And that is especially true in communities where there has been a history of distrust and/or violent and unacceptable use of force by officers. 3) I believe that no elected law enforcement official in any state should be required or allowed run for office within a specified political party. Law enforcement is there to protect everyone, to serve without influence or favor, and to be completely unbiased in the pursuit of criminals. To be pigeonholed as a (R) or a (D) when running for office in an election unduly makes a person hold onto certain political stances and realities in order to win election, and that is never a good thing when you are also supposedly fair and unbiased in enforcing laws, so although I am a realist and know it would be hard to eliminate political designations for elected law enforcement administrators, it would be something that I would be in favor of.
Ray W. says
Many, many good points and insights here. Thank you, Skibum.