On Tuesday (Sept. 12), five former Memphis police officers were hit with federal criminal charges in connection with the beating and death of Tyre Nichols back in January. Along with their legal counsel, Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, and Justin Smith appeared in U.S. District Court to face a four-count indictment that includes deprivation of rights under the color of law and failure to provide proper medical aid, both of which could equate to life in prison. The remaining counts, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and obstruction of justice, are punishable by up to 20 years.

“The country watched in horror as Mr. Nichols was kicked, punched, tased, and pepper sprayed,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a video statement shared during the court hearing. “We all heard Mr. Nichols cry out for his mother and say, ‘I’m just trying to go home.’ We allege that the defendants charged today willfully deprived Tyre Nichols of his constitutional rights and that their actions resulted in his death. Tyre Nichols should be alive today.”

He continued, “Officers who violate the civil rights of those they are sworn to protect undermine public safety, which depends on the community’s trust in law enforcement. They dishonor their fellow officers who do their work with integrity everyday. The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable officers who betray their oath.”

The federal charges come after the disgraced ex-public servants were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression by the state of Memphis. At that time, Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis said, “These officers were found to be directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols.” She also described the death as “horrific circumstances” and said that her department is working to “find truth in the tragic loss.” The next court hearing for the state case is scheduled for Sept. 15.