MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tyre Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, 2023, three days after being arrested by officers of the Memphis Police Department (MPD).
Memphis Police said that Nichols, about 6-foot-3 and 145 pounds, according to attorney Ben Crump, was originally pulled over for reckless driving on Jan. 7 and ran from officers.
The police department said that officers had two different “confrontations” with Nichols, after which the 29-year-old complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a Memphis hospital.
He died there three days later.
An independent autopsy conducted by a forensic pathologist brought in by attorneys for the family of Tyre Nichols found that Nichols died of “excessive bleeding caused by a severe beating”, according to family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulory immediately asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to investigate the “use of force” by officers during Nichols’ arrest.
The National Civil Rights Museum also emphasized what they called the civil rights issues surrounding Nichols’ death.
The National Civil Rights Museum mourns another tragedy in the death of Tyre Nichols. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family fighting for justice in his killing. A killing while in police custody. A traffic stop that resulted in his death. We call for justice for Tyre Nichols. We call for continued immediacy in gathering the facts and evidence in Tyre Nichols’ death. We call for criminal accountability of the police officers who ended his life. We applaud Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for taking “immediate and appropriate action” in firing the five officers accused in the killing. We encourage Chief Davis to determine the best approach to assess past actions and history of all individual police officers for demeanor that may contribute to future deadly excessive force. The death of Tyre Nichols is a civil rights issue. As it should be, the case is now both a criminal and civil rights investigation. Our hearts remain heavy that another Black life has tragically ended. As a community, we cannot remain silent. We must seek justice for Tyre Nichols. For him. For his family. And for all who call Memphis home.
Additionally, the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ arrest, death and the actions of those officers.
THE OFFICERS INVOLVED
All five of the former Memphis Police officers who were involved in the death of Tyre Nichols have been charged with two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, one count of second-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, court records showed on January 26.
As of 10:30 a.m. on Friday, January 27, all five of those former Memphis Police had made bond.
Bond for Haley and Martin was set at $350,000 and bond for Bean, Mills and Smith was set at $250,000.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy explained those charges to FOX13′s Jeremy Pierre in a one-on-one interview.
“Kidnapping under Tennessee law is any confident of a person against their will which substantially interferes with their liberty,” Mulroy said. “It is our contention that whatever the legality of the initial stop, at a certain point Mr. Nichols was unlawfully detained by the police officers. It’s aggravated kidnapping under the law because it resulted in bodily injury and separately because the persons involved in the forcible detention that was unlawful possessed weapons at the time. So, there are two different counts of aggravated kidnapping based on that theory.”
Those five officers involved in that use-of-force arrest have been fired after an internal employment investigation by the Memphis Police Department on Friday, Jan. 20.
Those officers are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.
In a statement, MPD said those officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid.
“The Memphis Police Department is committed to protecting and defending the rights of every citizen in our city,” MPD said in a statement. “The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, every day.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, retained by the family of Nichols’, called the firing of the officers the first steps toward justice.
“We join Tyre’s family in supporting the Department’s decision to terminate the five officers who brutalized him, ultimately causing his death. This is the first step towards achieving justice for Tyre and his family. They must also be held accountable for robbing this man of his life and his son of a father. In the coming days, we will review the video footage from this violent attack … providing the family and community more clarity into what led to the loss of this young man, father, and son. We will continue to demand transparency and accountability in this case, and will not stop until we achieve full justice for Tyre and his family.”
FOX13 learned that Haley had previously been accused of beating an inmate at the penal farm.
That inmate claimed that Haley and another officer strip-searched him and beat him until he was unconscious.
That lawsuit was later dropped.
In a pre-recorded video statement by Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis, the police chief said “these officers were found to be directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols”.
Davis also said that other officers were being investigated in connection to the confrontation with Nichols.
On Friday, January 27, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis sat down with FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun, hours before the video of the confrontation with Nichols and the now-former officers was set to go public.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT VIDEO OF THE CONFRONTATION
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced in a press conference on Thursday, January 26 that video showing the confrontation leading to Tyre Nichols death will be released after 6 p.m. on Friday, January 27.
Four different videos were released by the City of Memphis. One showed the second confrontation between Nichols and police. That video showed an officer kicking Nichols in the face multiple times while he was on the ground. It also showed officers holding Nichols as another officer beat him with a baton, whipping him several times. In the video, officers can also be seen holding Nichols up, with his arms behind his back, while another officer walks around him in a circle and repeatedly punches him in the face.
Mulroy told FOX13′s Jeremy Pierre in a one-on-one interview that it was important to his office to have the charges announced against the former Memphis Police officers involved before the video became public.
“A) It was important to have the video released for purposes of transparency and I support the City of Memphis’ decision to release it. But B) I think it was better to have charges announced first so that when the public sees the video they’re seeing it in the context of accountability is occurring. Action is being taken. This is not being swept under the rug.”
Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis compared the video of Nichols and officers to that of Rodney King, saying that the video of Nichols’ confrontation was “as bad if not worse”.
In the time between Nichols’ death and the firing of those officers, family and supporters of Nichols’ called for the release of body cam video from the day of those “confrontations.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy all promised to release that video after officials held a private viewing of the footage with Nichols’ family and Crump.
The Memphis Police Department issued a statement saying that they met with Nichols’ family to “facilitate the viewing of video recordings.”.
But, while fully cooperating with investigations into the video, Davis said that releasing the video too soon could jeopardize those ongoing investigations.
“The Memphis Police Department is fully cooperating with the criminal investigation being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. ‘Transparency remains a priority in this incident, and the premature release could adversely impact the criminal investigation and the judicial process. We are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate time to release video recording publicly,” said Chief Cerelyn Davis.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy issued a similar statement, saying that the Nichols family has seen the video but that releasing the video publicly could hamper authorities’ investigation into those officers’ actions.
“Earlier today, we met with the family of Tyre Nichols — who have now seen the video. Transparency is a priority for the DA’s Office, and we understand the public’s desire for immediate release,” Mulroy said in a statement. “However, it’s important that the release does not compromise the investigation. We’re working with the TBI and FBI to expedite that investigation and are consulting regularly with the City of Memphis about the video’s release, which we expect will occur this week or next.”
TYRE NICHOLS FUNERAL, MEMORIAL
Tyre Nichols was laid to rest on February 1, 2023.
The funeral, originally scheduled for 10:30 a.m., was delayed until 1 p.m. due to ice and winter weather in Memphis. Vice President Kalama Harris was expected to be in attendance and Rev. Al Sharpton was scheduled to give the eulogy. Families other people who died at the hands of police, like George Floyd, were also expected to be at Nichols’ funeral.
A memorial for Nichols was on Jan. 17 at the M.J. Edwards funeral home in Orange Mound. Loved ones of Nichols’ again called for answers and justice during Nichols’ memorial.
“This could have been any of us,” said Nichols’ friend Angelia Paxton. “It really could have been any of us this time, because he was such an innocent person, he was such a light.”
That private viewing took place Monday, January 23, after which Nichols’ family and Crump held a press conference.
Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy for Tyre Nichols’ funeral on Feb. 1 in Memphis. The funeral will take place 10:30 a.m. Feb. 1 at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis.
Hours after it was announced that the five former Memphis Police officers involved in a confrontation with Nichols had been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, among other charges, his family, supporters and members of the skateboarding community held a candlelight vigil in his honor.
His mother urged peaceful protesting ahead of the pending release of the video showing the encounter between Nichols and those former officers.
“When that tape comes out tomorrow, it’s going to be horrific. I didn’t see it, but from what I hear it’s going to be horrific. I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets because that’s not what my son stood for. If you are here for me and Tyre you will protest peacefully,’ said Nichols’ mother Rowvaughn Wells.
Emotions ran high as protesters called for justice.
“Y’all are murdering people. Y’all are pulling up on people buying pizzas with guns to their heads trying to go home. Tyre was just trying to go home. That man was just trying to go home. He wanted to get food for himself. We can’t even feed ourselves and y’all murdering us,” shouted one protester.
TYRE NICHOLS’ FAMILY HOLDS PRESS CONFERENCE
At that press conference, attorney Ben Crump said that the Shelby County DA’s office, the TBI and the FBI all promised him that video of the incident would be released within 1-2 weeks.
Crump called the video appalling, horrible, heinous, violent, disturbing and “very troublesome on every level.”
Crump and the family declined to speak on some details in the case in order to ensure justice.
Attorneys said that Nichols was tased, pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and kicked and that there were “multiple uses of force” against him by officers who were clearly Memphis Police officers.
“We’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops. You should not be killed from a simple traffic stop,” Crump said.
“We have to make sure that there’s justice for Tyre so that we can prevent this from ever happening again,” Crump said. “We don’t want to see another video of a Black person losing their life because of a traffic violation.”
Crump went on to say that Police Chief Davis was very emotional when talking to Tyre Nichols’ mother and described the conversation as two mothers speaking rather than a police chief speaking to a citizen.
“She said she was not proud of what we were about to see,” said Crump in reference to the video of Nichols’ arrest.
“What we saw, it reminded us of the Rodney King video,” Crump said. “And, unlike Rodney Kind, Tyre didn’t survive. And, we are here to demand justice for Tyre.”
Another attorney for Nichols’ family, Antonio Romanucci, spoke to what was on the video of the confrontation between officers and Nichols, calling it a savage beating.
“He was a human pinata for those police officers... It was a nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video. Not only was it violent. It was savage,” Romanucci said. “We are here to say to you, so help me God, when is this going to stop?”
Romanucci encouraged people to have patience with Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy’s office in regard to the release of that video and said that he left a recent meeting with Mulroy feeling “encouraged”.
President of the Memphis Chapter of the NAACP Van Turner echoed the importance of the “8 Can’t-Wait” policies which ban chokeholds, require police officers to render aid and require officers to intervene and use de-escalate tactics, among other things. Turner then led the crowd in a chant of “Tyre Memphis”. Those chants were followed by a chorus " We will see what they did to Tyre,” led by attorney Crump.
Rodney Wells, Tyre Nichols’ stepfather, asked that any protests in Tyre’s honour be peaceful, saying that is what Tyre would want.
“No father, no mother should have to see what I saw,” Wells said. “It’s hard for me to get up here and speak to you all after having viewed what I viewed.”
Wells then spoke of who Tyre Nichols was as a person, saying how hard he worked at FedEx, and how much he loved skateboarding and taking pictures.
“My son didn’t deserve what he got. My son deserves justice,” Wells said.
Finally, Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells took the podium.
“This is so hard for me to even fathom right now because this doesn’t seem real to me right now... All I know is that my son Tyre isn’t here anymore. He’ll never walk through that door again. He’ll never walk in and say ‘Hello parents!’ again. I’ll never hear that again. All my son was trying to do was come home. He was two minutes from the house when they stopped him. He was less than 80 yards away when they murdered him. Yes, I said murdered because when I walked into that hospital room my son was already dead. The hospitals, they put him on a breathing machine just for my satisfaction, I guess. But, my son died on January 7. The doctors pulled the plug on January 10,” said RowVaughn Wells.
Crump said that the last words of the video were Tyre Nichols calling for his mother three times.
Also on Monday, the Memphis Fire Department confirmed that two personnel involved in taking care of Nichols were relieved of their duties last week as the department was conducting an internal investigation.
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