Nearly three weeks after a traffic stop in Memphis led to a violent arrest and the death of a driver, police are planning to show the public footage from their body cameras.
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was arrested on January 7 and taken to the hospital. Three days later, on January 10, he died from his injuries. Five Black police officers from the Memphis Police Department were fired after an internal investigation, and they could be charged with a crime.
His family says that Tyre Nichols was a “good kid” who liked skateboarding, photography, and watching the sunset.
Nichols’s family and lawyers have met with police and city officials to watch the video recordings of the traffic stop. The beating of Nichols, which lasted for minutes after officers chased him down as he ran away, has been described as brutal and long-lasting.
Memphis Police Chief Carolyn”CJ” Davis criticized the officers’ actions and said that more officers are still being looked into.
“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.”
Here’s what we know about what happened, how the police are looking into it, and how Nichols’ family feels about it:
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January 7: A traffic stop that ends in death
A Memphis police statement says that at about 8:30 p.m. on January 7, officers stopped a car they thought was being driven carelessly.
“A confrontation occurred” between officers and the vehicle’s driver – later identified as Nichols – who then fled on foot, according to Memphis police. Officers apprehended him and “another confrontation occurred,” resulting in Nichols’ arrest, police said.
Police said that Nichols asked for an ambulance at the scene of his arrest because he was having trouble breathing. He was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition.
Three days after the stop, on January 10, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Nichols had died from injuries he got in the “use of force incident with officers.”
January 15: Police give new information about the investigation
Memphis police said that the officers involved were taken off duty after the traffic stop. This is a standard procedure for the department when an investigation into their use of force starts. The TBI and the office of the district attorney in Shelby County were also asked to look into what happened.
Police said preliminary findings showed that the officer’s actions during the stop were evil
A preliminary autopsy ordered by Tyre Nichols’ family found that he died of “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
“After reviewing various sources of information involving this incident, I have found that it is necessary to take immediate and appropriate action,” Chief Davis said in a statement released January 15. “Today, the department is serving notice to the officers involved of the impending administrative actions.”
The statement also said that the department had to follow a required procedure before punishing or firing a government civil servant.
In the days after Nichols died, his family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, repeatedly said they wanted the body camera footage and surveillance footage from the traffic stop to be made public.
Crump said, “This kind of death in custody destroys community trust if agencies don’t act quickly to be open and honest.”
January 18: The federal government opens an investigation
The Department of Justice said on January 18 that a civil rights investigation had been started into Nichols’s 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,” Kevin G. Ritz, US Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said in a statement.
Ritz said that the US Attorney’s office has started a civil rights investigation “in coordination with the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.” He did not give any more details.
Officers were named and fired on January 20.
In response to the death of Tyre Nichols, the Memphis Police Department fired five officers. Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley, and Tadarrius Bean are at the top. Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith are at the bottom.
The Memphis Police Dept.
After an internal investigation, Memphis police found that five officers involved in the traffic stop had broken multiple department rules and fired them.
The department said in a statement that 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.”
Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith were terminated for failing in their “excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid,” the department said in a statement.
“The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work our officers perform, with integrity every day,” Davis said.
The firing of the five officers was called “the first step toward getting justice for Tyre and his family” by lawyers for the Nichols family, Crump, and Antonio Romanucci.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who helped Nichols with “initial patient care” were also fired, according to Qwanesha Ward, the department’s Public Information Officer.
January 23: Police video is shown to the family
Nichols’ family and lawyers talked to officials about how horrified they were by what they saw on the unreleased police video of the arrest. The Tyre Nichols’ family lawyer says that the video shows police hitting Nichols like he was a “human pinata.”
“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 described the video as “appalling,” “deplorable” and “heinous.” He said Ravaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, was unable to get through viewing the first minute of the footage after hearing Nichols ask, “What did I do?” At the end of the footage, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother three times, the attorney said.
According to the preliminary results of an autopsy that his family’s lawyers paid for, Nichols had “extensive bleeding” because he had been struck. CNN has asked for a copy of the autopsy, and Crump said it would be ready when the full report is ready.
The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office hasn’t said if anyone will be charged in the case. District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN on Tuesday that his office ensures everyone involved has been interviewed before the video is made public.
Mulroy said, “A lot of people’s questions about what happened will be answered once they see the video.” He added that he thinks the city will release enough footage to show “the whole thing, from the beginning to the end.”
Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.