Five Memphis police officers were fired and charged with murder in the death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died after being stopped for reckless driving.
Protests against police brutality have been held across the United States since body camera footage of his death was released. So far, here’s what we know.
Who was Nichols?
Nichols, a skateboarder and nature photographer from Sacramento, California, died this month while working for FedEx. He relocated to Memphis ahead of the pandemic, where he lived with his mother and stepfather. Everyone adored him, according to his friends and family.
On January 7, Nichols was driving home from a suburban park when he was pulled over for reckless driving. According to the police, two confrontations occurred. During the first confrontation, Nichols fled the scene of the traffic stop, according to police. Following the second confrontation, he was arrested. According to police, he then complained of shortness of breath and was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Nichols passed away three days later.
Footage of arrest
The city of Memphis released footage from police body cameras of Nichols’ arrest on Friday evening. The videos show officers dragging Nichols from his car while yelling profanities. On foot, one officer is seen pursuing him. Nichols is then seen being beaten by officers while lying on the ground. They are seen kicking him, punching him, and repeatedly striking him with a baton. “Mom!” he can be heard saying. According to reports, the incident occurred not far from his home.
Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, has compared the police actions to the 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King, another Black motorist. “Yet again, we’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops,” Crump said last week at a press conference. “You should not have been killed as a result of a simple traffic stop.”
According to NPR, each of the five Memphis officers – Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith – faces multiple charges, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. The five officers are all dressed in black.
They were part of the Memphis police department’s SCORPION unit, which debuted in 2021. The acronym SCORPION stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. The unit was later disbanded. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy stated that “the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” despite the fact that the five officers did not all play the same roles.
Two deputies who arrived at the scene of the arrest were also “relieved of duty pending an investigation,” according to Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr.
The incident is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI. RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, said she despises the fact that five black men “actually did this to another black man.”
“They just brought disgrace to themselves. I’m not a bad person, and neither is my son…. “I pray for (the officers’) families because they, too, did not deserve any of this,” she said.
Wells said she is not going to stop until every person that had anything to do with her son’s death is prosecuted to the fullest of the law.