Nearly three weeks after a Memphis traffic stop ended in a violent arrest and driver’s death, police will release body camera footage. Police said 29-year-old Black man Tyre Nichols died three days after his January 7 arrest. An internal investigation fired five Black Memphis Police Department officers who may face criminal charges.
The family of Nichols and attorneys have met with police and city officials to view the traffic stop’s video recordings, which show a vicious, prolonged beating that lasted minutes after officers chased Nichols. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis condemned the officers’ actions and said more are being investigated.
“This is not just a professional failing,” Davis said.
“This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane. And in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.”
The timeline, police investigations, and Nichols family reaction are as follows:
January 7 – A traffic stop with fatal consequences
Memphis police stopped a car for reckless driving at 8:30 p.m. on January 7. Memphis police said Nichols, the vehicle’s driver, fled on foot after “A confrontation occurred” with officers. Police arrested Nichols after “another confrontation occurred,” with officers.
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After Nichols complained of shortness of breath, police called an ambulance to take him to a nearby hospital in critical condition. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released a statement on January 10 stating that Nichols had died from injuries sustained in the “use-of-force incident with officers,” three days after the stop.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released a statement on January 10 stating that Nichols had died from injuries sustained in the “use-of-force incident with officers,” three days after the stop.
January 15 – Police provide update on investigation
Memphis police said the officers were relieved of duty after the traffic stop as part of a departmental procedure to investigate their use of force. The TBI and Shelby County District Attorney investigated. Police said preliminary findings showed the stop’s officers’ serious misconduct.
“After reviewing various sources of information involving this incident, I have found that it is necessary to take immediate and appropriate action,” Chief Davis stated on January 15.
“Today, the department is serving notice to the officers involved of the impending administrative actions.”
The statement added that the department had to follow procedures before disciplining or firing government civil servants. In the days after Nichols’ death, his family’s attorney Ben Crump repeatedly requested the release of body camera and surveillance footage of the traffic stop.
“This kind of in-custody death destroys community trust if agencies are not swiftly transparent,” Crump said.
January 18 – Federal investigation declared
On January 18, the DOJ announced a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.
“Last week, Tyre Nichols tragically died, a few days after he was involved in an incident where Memphis Police Department officers used force during his arrest,” said Kevin G.
Ritz, US Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.
“in coordination with the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has opened a civil rights investigation,”
Ritz said, declining to provide details.
January 20 – Officers Named and Fired
Memphis police fired five traffic stop officers after an internal investigation for violating multiple department policies. Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith were fired for
“excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid,” the department said.
“The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work our officers perform, with integrity every day, ” Davis said.
The Memphis Police Association, the officers’ union, declined to comment on the terminations, but said the city and Nichols’ family
“deserve to know the complete account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed to it.”
Crump and Antonio Romanucci, Nichols family attorneys, called the firing of the five officers
“the first step towards achieving justice for Tyre and his family.”
Public Information Officer Qwanesha Ward told CNN‘s Nadia Romero that two Memphis Fire Department employees who provided Nichols’ “initial patient care” were fired.
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January 23 – Family Views Police Video
Nichols’ family and attorneys were appalled after viewing the unreleased police video of the arrest with officials.
“He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video,” Romanucci said.
“Not only was it violent, it was savage.”
“What I saw on the video today was horrific,”
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said Monday.
“No father, mother should have to witness what I saw today.”
Crump called the video “appalling, deplorable, and heinous.” After hearing Nichols ask, “What did I do?”, Nichols’ mother Ravaughn Wells couldn’t watch the first minute. The attorney said Nichols calls his mother three times at the end of the footage.
According to preliminary autopsy results commissioned by his family’s attorneys, Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” CNN requested the autopsy, which Crump said will be available when the full report is ready.
The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office hasn’t announced charges. On Tuesday, District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN his office will interview all parties before releasing the footage.
“A lot of the people’s questions about what exactly happened will, of course, be answered once people see the video,”
Mulroy said, noting he believes the city will release enough footage to show the
“entirety of the incident, from the very beginning to the very end.”