The death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers has sparked nationwide outrage that continues to grow as more information is released.
On the night of Jan. 7, Tyre Nichols was pulled over by multiple officers for suspected reckless driving. According to the initial statement released by the Memphis Police department (MPD), Nichols fled on foot after an alleged confrontation with the officers. There were claims of a second confrontation after he was apprehended, leading to Nichols’ arrest.
An ambulance was called as Nichols told the officers that he felt a shortness of breath. He was then taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Three days later, on Jan. 10, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that Nichols had died from the injuries sustained during his arrest. Over a week later, the Department of Justice declared that a civil rights investigation had been opened.
On Jan. 20, the five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith – involved in the arrest were identified and fired after the internal investigation found their use of force to be excessive and egregious in nature. Some believe that the swift actions taken in this investigation have to do with the fact that all of the involved officers, as well as the Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, are Black; This has led to a larger conversation about how race plays a factor in how quickly the justice system works.
This decisive action raised suspicions amongst community members, as previous cases of police brutality have required national attention from the public to see such immediate results. In this case, action is being taken, even before the release of the bodycam footage, making many fear the worst.
As details regarding the case continued to surface, the public was made aware that this instance was not the first time the five terminated officers displayed violent behavior. Demetrius Haley previously worked as a corrections officer in Shelby County. According to a 2016 lawsuit, Haley was one of many officers who took part in the assault of inmate, Cordarlrius Sledge. The lawsuit was later dropped.
None of the involved officers had been employed at MPD for more than six years. During their time there, they were a part of the SCORPION Unit, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhood.
When the assault on Nichols became public knowledge, Cornell McKinney recognized the officers as the unit that pulled him over just four days before Nichols’ arrest.
On Jan. 26, the five officers were charged with two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, one count of second-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping. Four officers bonded out by early Friday morning.
Before its official release, the footage of the arrest was viewed by the Nichols family and public officials. With a national outrage brewing over the past couple of weeks, these officials have shown concern about the footage and the reaction the public would have upon viewing it.
On Jan. 27, the footage, consisting of three body camera videos and one from an elevated viewpoint, was released to the public. In the hours following this release, protests have been held in about dozen cities across the country including Memphis, New York, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
Many have chosen not to watch the footage, opting instead to remember Tyre Nichols for the life he lived.