The 5 Black cops indicted on the murder of Tyre Nichols (Source: Memphis Police Department)
The excessive and fatal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by five Black Memphis policemen, since fired and indicted on a slew of serious charges, was called “horrific” and “savage” by Chicago and Memphis officials against a “defenseless, good, young Black man,” whose last words reminded them of George Floyd’s cry for his mother.
The video will be released Friday, January 27, in the late evening hours, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who said all five officers “are responsible” for Nichols’ death.
The video was called “appalling, deplorable, heinous and violent,” by Attorney Ben Crump, one of the family’s lawyers. He said it is time out for Blacks to die at the hands of police during a traffic stop—one Rodney Wells, the stepfather of Tyre Nichols, described as being “racist,” even though all five police officers were Black. Crump said the video reminded him of the Rodney King beating except “Tyre did not survive. This excessive police force has to stop. We’re demanding justice for Tyre,” he said.
Nichols’ parents, Rodney and RowVaughn Wells, said all their son was trying to do on that fatal January 7 day was to get home to safety. Mrs. Wells said her son died two-minutes and 80 yards from her doorsteps and echoed Attorney Crump’s description of her son as being “a good boy,” loved by many. Her son died on January 10 three days after the beating.
Mr. Wells said at first the police told him his son was arrested for a DUI. That, he said, was not true. “It was a coverup,” he said. “They said my son ran. Yes, he did. He was running for his life,” as he and his attorneys said referring to the soon-to-be released video they called “horrific.”
Fired, arrested and indicted for the beating of Nichols were former police officers, who ages range from 24-32 and on the job from 2.5 to 5 years, were Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills, Jr., according to Mulroy. The former officers were charged with second-degree murder, which in Tennessee is “knowingly killing someone” and is a Class A felony that is punishable from 15 to 60 years.
Joining Bishop Henry Williamson, who is working with the community to avoid violent protests, were the parents of Nichols, who issued a plea for peace in the streets, as did Memphis Police Chief, C.J. Davis, an African American, who vowed there will be justice for Tyre Nichols.
Mrs. Wells said her son, who worked with her husband on the second shift at FedEx, had a passion for photography, skateboarding and watching the sunset. She said everyone loved her son at his job and he loved his parents. “He was not into drugs,” nothing she said that would warrant the vicious beating by the five Black officers.
In an interview with the Chicago Crusader late Thursday night, January 26, Bishop Tavis Grant, National Executive Director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Bishop Williamson, who recently retired as the head of the Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church, former president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and founder and CEO of One Church, One School Community Partnership program, expressed outrage over the killing of Nichols. “I felt shocked, horror and disbelief because we’ve not had that history of police brutality. It’s generally been white officers. It was shocking. We must bring a cultural change in their training.”
Williamson called on police departments to use the six principles of non-violence of Dr. King. “We must bring a cultural change to the police department, not just in Memphis but across America,” Williamson said. “Non-violence must be the way we move forward talking about change.
“We must use Dr. King’s principles of non-violence in protesting to bring about change including changing the laws. Community policing is necessary and training,” Williamson said. “Tyre had no gun and he wasn’t a threat to the police. What they did to him was barbaric and shameful for our nation, to our city and to our own Black community.”
“We must minister to the hurt and the pain that this family is going through,” he said. “For five officers with one victim who had no gun or was no threat was barbaric and shameful. We have fought hard and long to be included on the police and fire department forces of America.” Williamson said while the number of bad policemen, Black or white is small, “It hurts as an African American to see that our gains to put honorable men and women on the police forces well trained that this could happen.”
Agreeing was Bishop Grant, who said, “The indictment of these officers is a step in the right direction. A life was taken by those who took an oath to serve and protect. We will forever be haunted by the question Nichols asked, “Why are you doing this to me?”
“As a native of Memphis, we fought institutionalized racism in education, in politics, in housing and in law enforcement,” Grant said. “Five Black officers did this. We must move forward to expose and eradicate the evil culture of violence in law enforcement.
“This kind of brutality is not by happenstance,” Grant said. “It’s systemic and pervasive from the squad car to the courtroom. We must turn our pain into power and rise above our human tendency of despair and use this shameful moment as an opportunity for healing and transformation.”
On Thursday, January 26, the family of Nichols and their lawyers, Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement about the Memphis police fatal beating.
”The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre.
“This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures like, in this case, a traffic stop.
“This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death. Tyre’s loved one’s lives were forever changed when he was beaten to death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served,” the statement concluded.
On Monday, January 23, Crump and Romanucci held a press conference in Memphis at the Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church, headed by Rev. Kenneth Thomas, with the parents of Nichols and Memphis NAACP President Attorney Van Turner, Jr.
They had viewed snippets of the body camera video, which Crump said, “In this case the video was critical. You had to see the step-by-step, blow-by blow.” Crump called the video surreal. You keep thinking somebody is going to de-escalate this situation, but it doesn’t happen, and you can’t believe” what was happening to Nichols.
“The way they interact with white citizens and how they interact with Black citizens is night and day,” said Crump. “It doesn’t matter who the police are. We keep looking for video and them using this kind of force against white citizens. You just don’t see it in America. That video was critical.”
When asked by a reporter if all of the five officers were in uniform, Romanucci said, “There is no doubt, zero doubt that these officers were in their Memphis blues. They were in their patrol cars, some were unmarked, lights were flashing. That tells us that all of these were under the color of law…under the scope of the law.
“What we saw was an unnecessary intentionality of violence and cruelty against somebody who was defenseless,” he said. “We’ve seen before in the video that we can tell you he was kicked. There were multiple uses of force used against him.” Crump said Nichols was “tased and pepper sprayed and restrained,” explaining they were limited to what they can say about the pending case.
When asked the cause of death, Crump said the family is receiving an independent autopsy conducted by the same doctors who did George Floyd’s independent autopsy. He said the results will soon be released.
When asked about the need of police training, Romanucci said, “Not only is it the lack of training but it’s the continuity of training and when bad training takes place, it’s the deprogramming that’s required in order to retrain and get better at what you do.” He said their lawsuit will be “wide in scope” and reveal everything so this family will receive justice.
This is a picture of Tyre Nichols when he was in the hospital. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she believed her son was dead then. Nichols was beaten by five Black Memphis police officers on January 7 and died in the hospital on January 10. She called her son “a good boy,” who loved photography, watching the sunset, skateboarding and working with her husband on the same shift at FedEx. “He was not a violent boy,” she said. Her attorney, Ben Crump, asked why is there a difference on how police handle white motorists during traffic stops and Blacks. “You don’t see video of this nature involving a white person,” he said.
Press Statement of the Mayor of Calumet City and Illinois State Representative of the 29th Legislative District Thaddeus M. Jones:
“On behalf of the entire Calumet City Council, the residents of Calumet City and the residents of the 29th Legislative District; I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and all of the communities that make up the city of Memphis.
Routine traffic stops should not result in death however that was the unfortunate reality for Mr. Nichols. My heart bleeds for Mr. Nichols’ family as they seek answers and total accountability from the illegal actions of these cowardly officers whose sole responsibility was to protect the citizens, not to inflict lawless actions on them.
While we are somewhat encouraged by the swift termination and arrest of the now former officers involved, it clearly is just a small step to addressing a nationwide problem for law abiding people of color. I join President Joe Biden, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and other elected officials around the nation in calling for a transparent and thorough investigation that will allow the family of Tyre Nichols to begin their healing process. But moreover, to restore public trust.”
Thaddeus M. Jones
Mayor of Calumet City, Illinois
Illinois State Representative of the 29th Legislative District of Illinois
Message from the African American Mayors Association (AAMA):
The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is heartbroken by the tragic and brutal death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers. We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Nichols and the entire Memphis community as they search for peace and justice for the senseless loss of this young, Black man.
“In this nation, a routine traffic stop should not be a death sentence, but tragically that was the case for Tyre Nichols. As a Black man and a Mayor, my heart aches for the Memphis community as they seek healing, answers, and accountability from those charged to protect not harm them,” said AAMA President and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. “We are heartened by the swift termination and arrest of the officers involved, but that’s not enough. We join with the family of Mr. Nichols and the people of Memphis in calling for a transparent and just investigation to ease their understandable pain and restore public trust.”
With the public release of footage showing the violent beating of Tyre Nichols, AAMA continues to push for meaningful reforms to prevent police brutality by any officer and rebuild faith in those called to serve our communities. Further, we call for peaceful protests as we continue to work towards what Dr. King called the moral arc of justice.
Statement from Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA):
Our hearts ache for the Nichols family, the City of Memphis, and the many Chicagoans who are once again forced to relive the trauma of seeing death at the hands of those sworn to protect us. Like other members of the public, we are outraged by the recently posted videos showing the brutal beating and eventual murder of Tyre Nichols. This is a moment of deep pain and heartache that should have been avoided.
As the Community Commission, our goal has always been to further accountability and safety in this city. Nobody deserves the brutality and suffering inflicted on Mr. Nichols. If we are to uphold the values of a humane society, we must make it unacceptable for anyone, regardless of their stature or power, to treat another human in that manner. We hope that the Nichols family and the City of Memphis will continue to bring swift accountability to those who caused this irreparable harm.
As we reflect on this moment, we would like to center the human pain that is at the core of this incident. Many people in the City of Chicago can relate to the fear expressed by Mr. Nichols in the videos. What we saw today is a tragic reminder that communities throughout our country, notably those of color, continue to experience systemic and pervasive violence at the hands of the police. Black men in particular, have suffered greatly from the brutality of this system—regardless of the race of the person behind the badge.
What is most concerning, is that the culture of many police departments continues to perpetuate violent actions that stem from a need to exert power. Our hope for the City of Memphis and for Chicago, is to create a future where public safety first-responders move away from a culture of enforcing authority and to one where harm and violence prevention is prioritized. Policing and public safety need to change in Memphis, in Chicago, and throughout our country. We remain committed to being a proactive and collaborative part of this change. To achieve this, we will need the support of all community members, including police officers.
We offer our most heartfelt condolences as we mourn a life that should have never been taken. May the memory of those who we have lost serve as a reminder of our strength and humanity.
Statement from Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot:
“As a Black mother, I can only imagine the pain, grief, and frustration that is consuming the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Make no mistake: what happened to Tyre was a horrific, unconscionable, and preventable act of violence carried out by those sworn to serve and protect. As we know all too well, tragic incidents like these not only send ripples of anguish across our country, but further erode trust between law enforcement and communities—especially those that are Black and Brown. Knowing that today’s news will reopen painful wounds for all those who loved Tyre, I urge everyone who is rightfully calling for justice to express themselves peacefully. Seeing a Black man murdered by the police will always spark feelings of outrage, pain, and despair. It’s important for us to channel those emotions into working together and ensuring that as a nation, we continue to hold our law enforcement officers to the highest standards of ethical, professional and constitutional policing. It is dismaying that these officers were young in their profession and men of color themselves. It’s clear that there is much more systemic work that must be done. In the meantime, my prayers continue to be with Tyre’s family, friends, community as well as the other residents of Memphis as they continue to cope with this unimaginable loss.”
Speaker Welch’s Statement:
“I am both sickened and heartbroken by what America witnessed tonight. What we collectively saw in this body camera footage was gruesome, inhumane, and will remain as yet another horrific scar on our nation’s history. This was more than a failure by law enforcement, it was a failure of humankind.“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Tyre Nichols, and to all who are grieving this senseless tragedy; I feel this pain too and I pray for swift justice. “Tonight we mourn the devastating loss of another young Black man; a son, father, brother, and friend who loved skateboarding and sunsets. Tomorrow, for Tyre Nichols, we turn that pain into progress and purpose. Dr. King reminded us often that change is not automatic or inevitable, but it’s necessary. We must be united in our quest for equality and social justice, and together we must be the change agents our society so desperately needs.”