The Murder of Tyre Nichols

By: Savitha Srinivasan

Tyre Nichols, a young black man, was brutally beaten by 5 black police officers in Memphis on January 7, 2023, and died three days later due to his injuries. 

Nichols was pulled over for suspected reckless driving where the 5 police officers drew their firearms and surrounded the car. Footage of the incident was released on Friday, January 27, 2023, at 6 PM. Officers are shown continuously using aggressive, threatening language and using unwarranted force.

 In this footage, released by The City of Memphis, one officer said, “You’re going to get your head blown the f*ck up”. Throughout the video, they swear at him and even threaten to baton him. They tase, pepper spray, and restrain him.

Ms. Laurie Davis, an American Studies teacher at SHS, confirmed that she had watched the video. “I think the use of language that was used in that particular police stop was unprofessional. It was over the top,” she said.

“I think it was a different form of brutality but I think it was brutality the way that they spoke to him, the way that they treated him, the way that they interacted with him from the minute they stopped him,” she added.

The 5 police officers, identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith, were terminated from their jobs, and the 2 employees who were part of Nichols’s initial medical treatment have been “relieved of duty”. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis stated that the EMTs “failed to render proper care”. 

The officers have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct, and one charge of official oppression; however, Martin’s attorney has stated, “No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” in a joint news conference.

One of the 5 officers, Demetrius Haley, was a defendant in a federal civil lawsuit in 2016. The plaintiff’s case was based on a claim that a Shelby County Correctional Center inmate had been beaten and had his civil rights violated, but the case was later dismissed in 2018. 

Haley had put in a request to dismiss the case due to the fact that the inmate had not exhausted his administrative remedies, and the motion was granted. “Exhaustion of administrative remedies” refers to the fact that before a case will ever be heard before a state or federal court, all available resources within an agency should have been seeked out.

Davis says that the lack of training is a big part of the problem. “I think that if you look at the majority of where these violent cases are happening-where they are consistently using what seems to be stop-and-frisk procedures — it’s a systemic lack of training.” 

After watching the video Nichols’ stepfather was critical of the lack of first aid.“I saw some fire department people come out there and they just walked around and nobody showed him any aid, and they supposed to be trained in first aid,” he said. “[The officers] walked around, smoking cigarettes like it was all calm and like, you know, bragging about what happened,” he added.

“It’s a dereliction of duty. [The Officers] knew the damage that they did to him. They took an oath, it is their job to protect Mr. Nichols,” Davis said.

On January 7th, officers came to the house of Wells, Tyre’s mother, and informed her that her son had been arrested. They refused to tell her his exact location and instead told her that he was “nearby”. “Now that I’m actually putting things together, I believe they were trying to cover it up when they first came to my door,” she said. 

She stated that around 4 A.M. she was summoned to the hospital to see her son. When the doctor described Nichols’s injuries to her she did not think that the injuries were compatible with what she was told by police., “This doesn’t sound consistent to somebody being tased or pepper sprayed,” she said.

Memphis prosecutors will be reviewing all cases involving officers charged with the death of Tyre Nichols. Newly released documents show the involvement of a sixth officer who previously lied in his statements. Erica Williams, the spokesperson for Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy, stated that the investigation will continue. “This is just the beginning. This involves any criminal case that [the officers] were involved in. It is any case where there were criminal charges that were brought by the DA anytime since they became officers,” she said.

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