Man who was allegedly assaulted in 2015 by ex-officer in Tyre Nichols case speaks out

One of the five former Memphis police officers accused in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols took part in beating an inmate nearly eight years ago, according to the man who made the accusation in a 2016 lawsuit.

Cordarlrius Sledge was serving a three-year sentence for aggravated assault in 2015 when two corrections officers beat him because he had a contraband cellphone, he said in an exclusive interview Wednesday from his Memphis halfway house.

One of the officers Sledge named in his complaint was Demetrius Haley, who, according to the suit, worked for the Shelby County Corrections Department at the time. The Memphis Police Department fired Haley over multiple policy violations in the Jan. 7 traffic stop of Nichols, including use of force. Nichols died three days after he was pulled over.

Attempts to reach Haley for comment were unsuccessful. Shelby County inmate records showed Haley was in custody Thursday on multiple charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and official misconduct. The four other former officers involved in the traffic stop also were in custody and had been charged in his death.

This image provided by the Memphis Police Department shows officer Demetrius Haley. Memphis is city on edge ahead of the possible release of video footage of a Black man’s violent arrest that has led to three separate law enforcement investigations and the firings of five police officers after he died in a hospital. Relatives of Tyre Nichols are scheduled to meet with city officials Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 to view video footage of his Jan. 7 arrest. (Memphis Police Department via AP) (Memphis Police Department via AP)

Sledge, 34, said in the interview and in his suit — which was dismissed before its merits were evaluated — that Haley was one of two officers, under the supervision of a third, who came into his cellblock on May 16, 2015, to search him.

“When they came in to do one of their little random pop-in search, they called me and two other guys to the shower area to be strip-searched,” Sledge said. “They requested for me to be searched first.”

Sledge said he ran past the officers in his underwear in an attempt to get rid of the cellphone. He did not assault Haley or the other officers, nor did he knock into them as he ran, he said.

“That’s when they started punching on me,” he said. “They picked me up and slammed my head into the sink, and I blacked out.”

The 2016 lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Western Tennessee, identified Haley as one of the officers who punched Sledge and accused a third officer of slamming his head into the sink.

The officers took Sledge to the prison’s medical infirmary, and the next day, he said, he noticed significant bleeding out of his ear. The suit, which Sledge filed without a lawyer, was dismissed in 2018 after a judge found he had not properly served one of the defendants with a summons. Sledge said he was in federal custody at the time and was unable to complete the necessary paperwork on his own.

Judge Thomas Anderson did not address Sledge’s allegations in the March 2, 2018, dismissal order.

The Shelby County Attorney’s Office advised NBC News to file a public records request in response to a question about whether an internal investigation was ever opened into Sledge's allegations. The public records department did not immediately respond to a request sent to a contact provided by the county’s chief litigation officer, E. Lee Whitwell.

The attorney’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit and Sledge’s allegation that the beating led to partial hearing loss.

Sledge was unaware that Haley was one of the officers involved in the Nichols case until he was contacted by NBC News. The news came as a shock, he said.

“I just hope that those officers get what they deserve and set an example for the rest of officers,” he said.

Nichols, 29, was stopped Jan. 7 for “reckless driving,” Memphis police said in a statement the next day. Police have not detailed his interaction with officers, saying only that Nichols fled on foot and that a “confrontation” occurred when the officers tried to detain him.

He complained of being short of breath and was hospitalized in critical condition, the Memphis Police Department said. He died three days later.

Five officers — Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last Friday after an internal investigation found they had violated multiple department policies during the stop, including policies addressing use of excessive force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid.

In a video statement Wednesday night, Police Chief C.J. Davis said other officers remain under investigation.

The five officers fired last week “were found to be directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols,” Davis said.

Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane” conduct and said people can see for themselves when body camera video of the stop is released.

The Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released a cause of death. Nichols’ family has hired an independent forensic pathologist, whose preliminary findings were that Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to family attorneys Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci.

The case is also being reviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department, which announced last week that it had opened a civil rights inquiry.

CORRECTION (Jan. 26, 2023, 10 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of the man who accused the officer of beating him in 2015. He is Cordarlrius Sledge, not Coradarlius.

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