‘A failing of basic humanity’: How five police officers were charged with the ‘heinous’ murder of Tyre Nichols

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A 29-year-old father died in hospital several days after he was taken into custody by police during a traffic stop.

Now five officers at the Memphis Police Department have been removed from their posts and jailed on second-degree murder charges.

Reverend Al Sharpton is set to give the eulogy at the funeral of Tyre Nichols on 1 February at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. The civil rights activist said in a statement “firing these officers for misconduct is not enough”.

“Justice will only be served when all five are charged with killing Tyre Nichols for the simple act of driving while Black,” he added.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis urged calm as the bodycam footage is set to be released.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels,” she said in a video statement on 25 January. “I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”

Ms Davis asked the public not to react to the footage with violence and destruction.

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results,” she said. “But, we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.”

This is everything we know so far about the death of Tyre Nichols.

‘Excessive use of force’ by officers

The police said in a statement on 20 January that the officers involved in the arrest of Mr Nichols were guilty of an “excessive use of force”.

Police added that officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr, and Justin Smith had all been fired after they failed to follow “multiple department policies”.

A previous statement shared by police stated that they attempted to pull over Mr Nichols for “reckless driving” on 7 January, at about 8.30pm local time, according to Newsweek.

From left are officers Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean

“As officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot,” police said at the time. “Officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended.”

‘Complained of having a shortness of breath’

Kenyana Dixon is comforted during a rally for her brother Tyre Nichols at the National Civil Rights Museum on 16 January

“Afterwards, the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called to the scene,” the statement said. “The suspect was transported to St Francis Hospital in critical condition.”

The young father “succumbed to his injuries” on 10 January, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has said.

The agency is looking into whether the officers crossed the boundaries of the law, and a separate civil rights investigation has been started by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

5 Memphis officers fired for involvement in death of Tyre Nichols

Officers failed to ‘render aid’

The police department announced the firing of the officers on 20 January.

“After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five MPD officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid. Earlier today, each officer charged was terminated from the Memphis Police Department,” the agency said.

Lawyer ‘encouraged’ by police response to death

Nichols family attorney Ben Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, told Action News 5 that “when police kill a person unjustly, especially a Black person … normally they delay, delay, delay. But I am encouraged because Chief Davis and city officials communicated with me yesterday”.

Body camera footage to be released

The body camera footage from the incident is expected to be made public “this week or next,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said on 23 January, according to NBC News.

“Transparency remains a priority in this incident, and a premature release could adversely impact the criminal investigation and the judicial process,” Chief Davis said in a statement.

Family shown footage ahead of public release

Rodney Wells speaks during a memorial service for his son on 17 January

The family has now been shown the footage from the traffic stop in the lead-up to Mr Nichols being taken to hospital before his death.

Officials from the police department and the city of Memphis said on 23 January that they met with the Nichols family that morning to watch the footage.

In a joint statement, Mr Crump and fellow attorney Antonio Romanucci said that the footage would deliver “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,” they added.

Memphis Police Association President Lt Essica Cage-Rosario told NBC News that “the citizens of Memphis, and more importantly, the family of Mr Nichols deserve to know the complete account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed to it,” but declined to comment on the officers’ removal, noting that the investigation is ongoing.

Lawyer invokes 1992 Los Angeles riots

During a press conference on 23 January, Mr Crump said “regrettably it reminded us of the Rodney King video”.

Mr King was beaten by Los Angeles police in March 1991. The acquittal of the four officers involved the following year led to the LA riots.

Mr Crump said Chief Davis shared her condolences with the family not as a police chief but as a “Black mother”.

Nichols was a ‘defenceless … human piñata,’ attorney says

Mr Romanucci added that police used an unmarked car from the department’s organized crime unit during the traffic stop, adding that they were “anticipating violence,” WREG reported.

The attorney said that Mr Nichols was “defenceless” and a “human piñata,” questioning why officers in an unmarked vehicle were conducting a traffic stop.

“He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, non-stop beating of this young boy for three minutes,” he said, according to CNN.

Mr Nichols’s mother, RaVaughn Wells, said the last time she saw her son, he was leaving to go watch the sunset at Shelby Farms Park, which he did on most weekends.

Noting that he was passionate about skateboarding, she said he was only two minutes away from her house when they murdered him,” according to WREG.

Skateboarder Kam Blakely skates in front of city hall in remembrance of Tyre Nichols

‘No father, mother should have to witness what I saw’

Mr Nichols’s stepfather, Rodney Wells, said during the press conference on 23 January that “what I saw on the video today was horrific”.

“No father, mother should have to witness what I saw today,” he added.

“Yet again, we’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops,” Mr Crump said. “Simple traffic stops. You should not be killed because of a simple traffic stop.”

“It is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous,” he added, regarding the footage. “It is violent. It is troublesome on every level.”

The civil rights attorney said Ms Wells couldn’t get through the viewing after Mr Nichols said “what did I do?”

The lawyer added that Mr Nichols was heard calling for his mother three times at the end of the footage.

“Nobody’s perfect, okay, nobody,” Ms Wells told the media. “But he was damn near.”

“Our son ran because he was scared for his life,” Mr Wells said. “He did not run because he was trying to get rid of no drugs, no guns, no any of that. He ran because he was scared for his life. And when you see the video, you will see why he was scared for his life.”

Officials working to expedite investigation

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN on 24 January that the authorities were working on expediting the investigation to allow the footage to be released and for a decision to be made if the officers will be charged.

“I know that people are very, very concerned about this. I think the incident has the potential to undermine confidence in the fairness of our police force and the criminal justice system,” he said.

The director of communications at the office of the Shelby County District Attorney, Erica Williams, told CNN on Monday that the footage “should be made public, it’s just a matter of when”.

Mr Mulroy said that the officers involved could have been affected by subpar training by the department as well as the actions of other officers.

“I think all of those things may be a factor,” he told CNN. “And it’s my hope that this incident, as tragic as it is, might lead to a broader conversation about reform of our police department, including de-escalation training and things of that nature.”

Officers charged with second-degree murder

On 26 January, The Washington Post reported that the officers had been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression, according to records from the Shelby County Jail.

Memphis police chief slams officers’ ‘failing of basic humanity’

Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis released a video statement on 25 January.

“This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual … and in the vein of transparency when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves,” she said.

She added that the officers were “directly responsible” for the “physical abuse” of Mr Nichols, calling the officers’ actions “heinous, reckless, and inhumane”.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels,” she added. “I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”

Ms Davis asked the public not to react to the footage with violence and destruction.

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results,” she said. “But, we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.”

She added that “none of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens”.

“In our hurt and our outrage and our frustration, there is still work that needs to be done to build each other up to continue the momentum in improving our police and community relationships and partnerships,” she said.

Ms Davis noted she had met with Ms Wells and that she has ordered internal reviews and training for the department.

Federal investigation ‘may take some time’

The US attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Kevin Ritz, said on 25 January that “as I told Mr Nichols’ family, our federal investigation may take some time. These things often do”.

“But we will be diligent, and we will make decisions based on the facts and the law,” he added during the press briefing, without taking questions from reporters.

City of Memphis releases police bodycam video footage

Officials in Memphis released the full video footage of the deadly interaction between five MPD officers and Tyre Nichols at 7pm ET on Friday 27 January.

The video showed officers dragging Nichols from his car and firing a taser weapon at him before he fled the scene on foot.

Source: independent.co.uk