By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Five Memphis police officers involved in the traffic stop that led to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, official misconduct and official oppression.
Nichols’ death, which has sparked nationwide protests against police brutality, happened after police pulled him over for reckless driving. Shortly after the incident, officials stated that Nichols said that he was “trying to get home” and ran away from officers. He was apprehended and transported to Memphis’ St. Francis Hospital in critical condition. Nichols died three days later.
Eight days following his death, Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin G. Ritz, announced that the FBI and the Department of Justice would be opening a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death. On Jan. 20th, the five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were all fired from the Memphis Police Department.
Three Fire Department personnel have been terminated for failing to provide adequate aide. Two additional police officers have been placed on leave.
Body camera footage for the incident was shown to Nichols’ family on Jan. 23, which they described it as “violent,” “heinous” and “deplorable.” “What he was in that ‘video’ was defenseless the entire time,” Antonio Romanucci, an attorney for the Nichols family said. “He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes.”
In the footage, the officers kicked, punched, and used a baton on Nichols. Several times in the video, he called for his mom and asked “What did I do?” The footage also showed Nichols slumped next to his vehicle, unconscious.
An autopsy from a forensic pathologist hired by the Nichols’ attornies determined that he died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” The same day, the officers present at the traffic stop were arrested and charged.
Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis called the officers’ actions “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” She added that “when the ‘body camera footage’ is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.”
Sixty-seven minutes of footage were released the following day, prompting protests across the country against police brutality and sparking nationwide condemnation of the officers involved.
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death,” President Joe Biden said in a statement released on Friday. “My first emotion was sadness — sadness for Tyre — watching him go through what he was going through. And then some disbelief. It’s just beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. “Then it turned into anger that a fellow human being was treated that way.”
“People don’t know what those five police officers did to our family. And they really don’t know what they did to their own families,” RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tyre Nichols, said days before the footage was released. “They have put their own families in harm’s way. They have brought shame to their own families.”
“They brought shame to the Black community. I just feel sorry for them. I really do. Because they didn’t have to,” she added.
Over the weekend, around 10,000 protesters were present in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area. Many more are expected throughout the week, both locally and nationwide.