Since Tyre Nichols was beaten to death by Memphis police, seven officers have been fired. Here’s an overview of everything that has happened since then.
Over the past few weeks, the world has been reeling over the murder of yet another Black man fatally beaten. Tyre Nichols was a 29-year-old father who died in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, on the 10th of January after a brutal police attack. Here is everything we know about Tyre and what’s happened since his murder.
- The circumstances surrounding Tyre Nichols’ death
- What has happened to the officers involved?
- What has Nichols’ family said?
- Protests and Funeral Service
Who was Tyre Nichols?
Tyre Nichols was a 29-year-old black father who loved skateboarding and taking photos. He worked at FedEx and loved his mother. After growing up in Sacramento, Nichols moved to Memphis where he lived with his mother and stepfather.
The circumstances surrounding Tyre Nichols’ death
Nichols was beaten to death by five former Memphis police officers on the 7th of January during a traffic stop. The family of Tyre Nichols has said that he was driving home after photographing the sunset. The five police officers involved purported that Nichols was driving recklessly yet investigators have not found any evidence to corroborate the claim.
The police initially said that after Nichols was pulled over by Memphis police officers, a “confrontation” with Nichols occurred and he ran away before a “second confrontation” took place before his arrest. Yet, video footage, which the city of Memphis released on the 27th of January, gives a different story.
Video footage of Nichols’ fatal encounter with police has been released. There are four videos. The videos show the officers punching Nichols in the face and kicking his head while restraining him, pepper spraying him, and striking him with a baton.
Tyre Nichols’ fatal encounter videos released to the public
The first video shows one police officer forcibly pulling Nichols out of his car and then another officer pushing him to the ground while Nichols tells the officers that he was “just trying to get home”.
The officers keep pushing him to the ground and one points a Taser stun gun at Nichols’s leg. Then another officer pepper sprays Nichols before he breaks loose and runs away down the street.
The second video was taken from a street surveillance camera. It shows the officers restraining and beating Nichols in a new location at an intersection. You can see two officers holding Nichols on the ground. Soon, a third officer approaches Nichols and kicks him in the face and a fourth officer beats him in the back with a baton. While being held by two officers, Nichols then stands up and stumbles before being punched repeatedly in the face by another officer until he collapses.
The third video comes from a police body camera and provides audio of the attack in the second location. The video shows the officer wearing the bodycam holding Nichols to the ground and pepper spraying him repeatedly before taking out a baton.
The fourth video shows bodycam footage of an officer chasing Nichols to the intersection and knocking him to the ground. Whilst the video is almost fully concealed, Nichols can be heard struggling for breath and you can hear the sound of handcuffs clicking.
One of the officers then says to “get him up” while Nichols sits static against a grey car. Eventually, paramedics are seen attending to him.
Nichols was taken to hospital following the attack.
Three days later, on the 10th of January, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced Nichols dead. Nichols died due to a fatal beating by five officers. An independent autopsy found that Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
What has happened to the officers involved?
Upon Nichols’s death, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office carried out an investigation into Nichols’s death.
On the 10th of January, following an investigation by the Memphis police, five Memphis police officers were charged with second-degree murder and fired. The officers have been revealed as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith.
NBC News wrote: “Haley violated police policies including personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty, and excessive force/unnecessary force, according to police.”
The officers were part of the Scorpion unit which targeted criminals in high-crime areas. Yet after the release of the body camera video of Nichols being beaten, the Memphis police chief, Cerelyn Davis said in a statement that the unit has been disbanded. The Memphis Police Department said that “[i]t is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.
While the heinous actions of a few cast a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”
10 days later, it was revealed that two other officers have been disciplined. One of the officers disciplined is Officer Preston Hemphill, who is white. He has been relieved of duty and put on administrative leave, police major Karen Rudolph of the Memphis police department said.
Rudolph did not state what role Hemphill played in the murder nor whether he’ll be charged in connection with the death of Nichols. However, Rudolph has revealed that Hemphill had been put on desk duty on the 8th of January, a day after the fatal beating and two days before Nichols died.
Later that day, the Memphis police department announced that another officer had also been relieved. However, this officer’s name has not been revealed nor has his involvement in the incident.
Since this revelation, the civil rights attorney representing Nichols’s family, Ben Crump, said that the videos of the attack show Hemphill forcibly removing Nichols from his car before using a Taser stun gun on him. Crump also said that the footage captured Hemphill saying of his colleagues “I hope they stomp his ass.”
Three emergency medical technicians, Robert Long, JaMicheal Sandridge, and LT Michelle Whitaker, have been fired from the Memphis fire department in connection to Tyre Nichols’s death.
The Memphis fire department also said in a statement that the department was called by the police and asked to respond to a report of a person who had been pepper-sprayed. They said that the technicians approached Nichols as he was handcuffed.
According to the statement, based on the nature of the call and the information provided by the police, Long and Sandridge “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols.” Apparently, Whitaker and the driver remained in the vehicle. The statement said that an investigation found that all three had violated “multiple” policies and protocols.
Despite the police department being praised for their swift arrest of the five Black police officers involved in Nichols’s death, it is questionable why the police chose to withhold Hemphill’s name yet eagerly named the Black perpetrators. Hemphill has not yet been fired or charged for his role in Nichols’s death.
Why are his identity and the role he played in Tyre’s death just now coming to light?” said Crump in a statement.
We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis police department be transparent with the family and the community – this news seems to indicate that they haven’t risen to the occasion.
It certainly begs the question why the white officer involved in this brutal attack was shielded and protected from the public eye, and to date, from sufficient discipline and accountability,” he continued.
This unequal treatment between the Black and White officers reveals how an issue of White supremacy still exists.
What has Nichols’ family said?
On the 23rd of January, the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’s death was shown to his family and attorneys.
According to Crump, the attorneys described the video as “appalling,” “deplorable,” “heinous,” “violent”, and “troublesome on every level.”
Crump also likened the police’s actions to the beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles police department back in 1991.
Another attorney for the family, Antonio Romanucci, said: “What he was in that was defenseless the entire time.”
He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was the unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for 3 minutes.”
Memphis Mayor, Jim Strickland, expressed his disbelief in the video. “It’s just beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Then it turned into anger that a fellow human being was treated that way.”
“It’s obvious that these men violated a policy, violated their training, and violated state law,” he continued.
Nichols’ parents said that the video showed the police kicking their son, pepper spraying him, and using a stun gun on him while Nichols repeatedly asked, “What did I do?”
The family hired a forensic pathologist to carry out an independent autopsy on their son. In a statement, the family and their attorneys said: “His observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7.”
Further details and findings from this independent report will be disclosed at another time.”
Police chief Davis dubbed the officers’ actions “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” and that once the body camera footage “is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.”
She also said, “I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels.”
I expect you to feel outraged by the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”
She also said that she expected people to protest upon seeing the footage, but warns that “none of this is a calling card for inciting violence.”
Protests and Funeral Service
How has the world responded to Tyre Nichols’ death?
As Davis predicted, numerous protests have occurred seeking justice for Tyre Nichols. The protests happened across several American cities after body camera footage was released on the 27th of January.
A protest in Memphis occurred on the Interstate 55 highway that connects Tennessee to Arkansas. The protestors expressed their anger towards the footage and the frequent violence being used by Memphis officers.
Nichols’s cousin, Nyliayh Stewart, 24, who attended the Memphis protest spoke out saying, “this should not have happened.”
This family should not have to bury him. My family should not have had to bury my cousin.”
Another protest in New York saw protestors chanting “What’s his name? Tyre! Say his name. Tyre!” while holding signs. It is alleged that three protestors were arrested during this demonstration.
Protests also occurred in Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New Jersey.
During Nichols’ funeral on the 1st of February, which was held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis and was live-streamed, vice president, Kamala Harris called on congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and claimed that President Joe Biden would pass it.
This Act, which Harris helped to author when she was a senate will limit police immunity. It was initially passed in the Democratic-controlled House in February 2021 but failed in the Senate. Of the act she said, “We will not be denied” and “It’s non-negotiable.”
In her speech, she said We are here to celebrate the life of Tyre Nichols.”
She then turned to address the Nichols family, saying, “You have been extraordinary in terms of your strength, your courage, and your grace.”
We mourn with you, and the people of our country mourn with you.”
Upon seeing the video footage of the fatal beating, President Biden made a statement, claiming that it made him feel “outraged and deeply pained.”
Biden has also said that the murder is “yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”
The incident has further revealed that there is an epidemic of police violence against people of color plaguing the US and it has negatively impacted the hearts of many. We are still waiting to see if the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will be passed.