The United States is enraged over the death of a 29-year-old black man who was brutally beaten by 5 black police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 7— he died three days later.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith have been charged with multiple felonies, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression—] according to the Memphis District Attorney’s Office.
The second-degree murder charge is punishable by up to 60 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
As of last week, the Memphis Police Department (MDP) announced that the five officers had been fired. They joined the MPD between 2017 and 2020. Two other Memphis Police Department officers and two sheriff’s deputies were terminated, along with 3 fire department employees.
The five officers were a part of the SCORPION Unit, which was implemented in 2021 as a response to the outrage over George Floyd’s murder in 2020. MPD Police Chief Cerelyn Davis announced a review would be done to all special units, including SCORPION.
The footage was released last Friday, showing the officers kicking and beating Nichols with a baton as he pleads with them to stop attacking him. The footage, which is about an hour in length, was taken from police body cameras and a street surveillance camera. Nichols was stopped at a traffic stop, then ran away, and the officers followed, tack-led him to the ground and beat him until he couldn’t fight back.
Memphis police released a statement saying a “confrontation occurred” when Nichols’ vehicle was stopped, and then he fled. Another confrontation occurred as the officers attempted to arrest him.
The arrest attempt was made under suspicion of DUI. Police Chief Davis said last Friday on CNN that the initial investigation found “no proof” of reckless driving.
An autopsy was completed to find the cause of death for Nichols, and the report stated he “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” Antonio Romanucci, the lawyer for the Nichols family, stood alongside Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, at a press conference last Monday and said, “he was a human piñata for those police officers. Not only was it violent, it was savage.”
Memphis isn’t a stranger to crime. Pre-pandemic numbers showed the city of about 600,000 people had nearly 350 murders. The FBI listed Memphis as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. in 2019, and crimes, specifically murder, have increased by 5% in 2021.
For the last nine months, Nichols worked the second shift at a FedEx facility. His “lunch” break was at around 7 p.m. and he would always be found at his mother’s house, according to his family.
Nichols had a 4-year-old son. His mother told the New York Times he would go to the same Starbucks every morning and would often go to Shelby Farms, a park outside of Memphis. He has a passion for photographing sunsets and skateboarding— which began when he was about 6 years old.
His mother said that Nichols got her name tattooed on his arm. “That made me proud,” she said. “Most kids don’t put their mom’s name. My son was a beautiful soul.”
Just one week into the new year, Nichols’ life was taken after not 2, not 4, but 5 officers beat him to death. In the footage from the confrontation, Nichols was heard begging officers to stop, and he called out for his mother. Her home was about 100 yards away.
Nichols’ mother and family have been invited to the State of the Union, which takes place next Tuesday.
“Earlier today, I spoke to the family of Tyre Nichols on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus to first extend our condolences to them, to let them know that we stand with them, to ask them what they want from us in this moment, to honor the legacy of their son and to extend an invitation to them to be our guest at the State of the Union on February 7 so that we can make
sure that this issue of police culture, culture of policing, which, unfortunately in this country, has now contributed to countless deaths,” Congressional Black Caucus chair Steve Horsford said on MSNBC on Sunday.