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Friday, January 27, 2023

Tyre Nichols’ family, attorneys see ‘appalling’ arrest video, ask for justice

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tyre Nichols was beaten by police for three minutes, 80 to 100 yards from his home as he called repeatedly for his mother, whose name was tattooed on his arm, family members and attorneys said Monday.

Nichols’ mother and stepfather were joined by their attorneys at a Memphis church Monday, shortly after viewing video of the Jan. 7 traffic stop by Memphis Police that turned deadly. 

Tyre Nichols in a Memphis hospital. (photo provided by family)

“What I saw in the video today was horrific,” said his stepfather Rodney Wells. “No father, mother should have to witness what I saw today.”

While family members and attorneys have now seen the video, at the request of investigating agencies, it will be one to two weeks before it will be made public.

Memphis Police and District Attorney General Steve Mulroy said they had met with the family Monday morning to facilitate the viewing of the video. MPD said they are cooperating with investigations by the Department of Justice, FBI, TBI and district attorney’s office.

“We are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate time to release the video recordings publicly,” Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said in a statement.

Five Memphis Police officers have been fired for their involvement. All of them were African-American, as was Nichols.

Chief Davis said an investigation found the officers “violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”

The Memphis Fire Department on Monday also confirmed that two MFD personnel involved in the initial patient care of Tyre Nichols were relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted. 

Attorneys for Nichols’ family said Davis had tears in her eyes when she spoke with them Monday, and told them she was meeting with them not as a police chief, but “as a Black mother.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who met with city officials Monday, said the race of the police officers was not the relevant factor in this case.

“It is not the race of the police officer that is the determining factor in the amount of force that is exerted. It is the race of the citizen,” Crump said. “We have to have accountability no matter who tramples on the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

He called the video of the encounter appalling, deplorable, heinous, violent and troublesome on every level. He compared it to the video of Rodney King’s beating at the hands of police in Los Angeles in 1992.

Police say on the night of Jan. 7 at approximately 8:30 p.m., Memphis officers pulled Nichols over at Raines and Ross Road, where there was a confrontation. Nichols took off running but before he was arrested, police said there was a second confrontation. 

Nichols was hospitalized after the encounter and died Jan. 10.

Attorneys said Nichols was restrained and pepper sprayed by officers from an Organized Crime Unit. The officers were in uniform and in patrol cars, some of them unmarked, they said. Nichols ran from the scene toward home.

Rodney Wells questioned why his stepson was stopped at all. But he understood why he ran.

“He ran because he was scared for his life and he was trying to get home to his mother. That is the only reason,” his stepfather said.

Attorney Tony Romanucci described what he saw on the video as “savage.” He said the officers were “anticipating violence” during the stop, and that civil litigation was coming.

“He was defenseless the entire time. He was human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed none stop beaten of this young boy for three minutes,” Romanucci said.

Attorneys questioned why officers in unmarked cars would be conducting traffic stops and promised to pursue legal action to force a change in policy so that no one dies again after a traffic stop in the United States.

Nichols’ parents called for peace in the news conference. If there were any protests, his stepfather asked that they remain peaceful. 

Crump said the family agreed to allow investigators to delay the video’s release, as long as they were assured there was no problem with the investigation. But he put a timetable on the video’s release.

“If they don’t have it in two weeks, brother, y’all do what you got to do,” Crump told the crowd.

According to his family, Nichols was 6-foot-3, 145 pounds, 29 years old and father to a 4-year-old. He loved skateboarding, photography and watching the sun set at Shelby Farms Park, they said. 

He worked the second shift at the FedEx hub with his father. They came home for lunch break at 7 p.m.

“He was damn near perfect,” said his mother, RowVaughn Wells.

The National Civil Rights Museum released the following statement Monday, in part saying:

“We call for justice for Tyre Nichols. We call for continued immediacy in gathering the facts and evidence in Tyre Nichols’ death. We call for criminal accountability of the police officers who ended his life.

We applaud Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for taking ‘immediate and appropriate action’ in firing the five officers accused in the killing. We encourage Chief Davis to determine the best approach to assess past actions and history of all individual police officers for demeanor that may contribute to future deadly excessive force.

The death of Tyre Nichols is a civil rights issue. As it should be, the case is now both a criminal and civil rights investigation.

Our hearts remain heavy that another Black life has tragically ended. As a community, we cannot remain silent. We must seek justice for Tyre Nichols. For him. For his family. And for all who call Memphis home.”

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