Photo Via Family of Tyre Nichols
On 6 pm Friday, January 27, the Memphis city officials released the virtually untampered, original body footage of the brutal torture of a young Black man at the hands of five police officers two weeks ago. The man in question, Tyre Nichols, had a stable job, no criminal record, and was only ostensibly stopped for a traffic violation, when the law enforcement team began beating him amidst cries for help. The father of a four-year old died only three days later in the hospital, and all the officers involved were sacked and convicted of second-degree murder.
Tyre Deandre Nichols was born to an African-American household in 1994 in Sacramento, California, and moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his family in 2020. Throughout his tragically short life, Nichols struggled with Crohn’s Disease, but his love for his mother and son, and passion for skateboarding and photography kept him going.
Nichols had been working at FedEx for about nine months before his death.
He would spend Sundays doing his laundry and getting ready for the work week, his mom said in a interview.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our team member,” FedEx said in a statement.
Nichols had no conviction on record and was returning from his work at FedEx when five officers from the Memphis police ‘SCORPION’ unit (a plainclothes unit created to counter violent crime) stopped him only a few hundred yards from his home, for what was later revealed to be an invalid suspicion of driving under the influence. As shown by the now-public video footage, the five officers, all Black with varying levels of experience, immediately resorted to violence and tasing while Nichols kept down, yelling for his ‘Mom!’ and signaling ‘alright’.
There was only one brief moment when Nichols attempted to run for his life, but was caught within seconds and beaten again. His mother, who visited her son in critical condition at the hospital, said that the police initially tried to lie about the circumstances of his death. Tyre Nichols succumbed to his injuries three days later on January 10th.
The attorney for Nichols family Ben Crump told the media outlets that criminal charges against the officers had been brought within twenty days of the incident. “We have never seen swift justice like this,” Crump said, arguing that the case could serve as the blueprint for similar cases of abuse of authority elsewhere.
All five officers directly involved in the beating of Nichols were fired, indicted, and arrested for official misconduct and second-degree murder after an internal investigation concluded on Thursday. The 50-officer unit responsible for the calamity was also suspended after the incident. A day later, the City Council and the Memphis Police Department decided to release the actual footage of the encounter to signal their commitment to justice and improvement.
Universal reactions of exhausted shock could be seen at all levels of American society in the wake of the latest incident of police brutality against a person of color. In a CNN interview with Don Lemon, Memphis City Council chairman Martavius Jones broke down in tears over the video, apologizing and saying: “This was not supposed to happen in our community.” Memphis police officer Cerelyn Davis, the first Black woman to serve in that role, told the BBC: “My reaction was shock. Something happened that we cannot explain.”
Officials across the country expressed their grief over the tragedy. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Twitter: “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. President Biden and the White House addressed the occasion with a renewed call to pass the George Floyd Act. The act makes it easier to prosecute police officers over abuse of power, but was blocked by Republicans in the Senate in 2021.