On 7 January, Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was stopped by Memphis police for reckless driving. What happened next has been described by his family’s lawyers as an “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes”. Three days later, Nichols died from injuries sustained in the encounter.
The Memphis Police Department has now fired five officers involved in the incident and launched an investigation into their actions. At a press conference on Monday, lawyers for the family described the video footage they saw as “violent, disturbing” and “savage”. They said that Nichols was beaten less than 80 yards from his mother’s house, where he lived, and that he called out for her.
Rowvaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, described him as a “beautiful soul” and said that he was not a drug user or a confrontational person. She called his death a “murder” at the hands of police.
The video of the arrest has not yet been released publicly but is expected to be in the next few weeks. “Unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t death did not survive,” said attorney Ben Crump, referring to the black motorist who was beaten by white police officers in Los Angeles in 1991.
The police department’s review found that the officers violated a number of department policies, including use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid. Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said in a statement that “the egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, every day”.
The death of Tyre Nichols has shaken the community and highlighted the need for reform and accountability in law enforcement. The facts of the case are still being investigated, and the video footage of the incident will soon be released. Until then, the family of Tyre Nichols will mourn the loss of their son and the community will await answers.