Editor’s Note: This article contains graphic videos and descriptions of violence.
Protesters took to the streets again this weekend to denounce police brutality following the release of a video showing Memphis police brutally beating 29-year-old Tire Nichols, and more rallies and vigils are planned for Sunday.
Nichols could can be heard screaming for his mother in the video of the Jan. 7 encounter, which begins with a traffic stop and then shows officers repeatedly beating, punching, and kicking the young black man — including at one point while his hands are behind held his back.
He was left on the ground in handcuffs and it took 23 minutes for a stretcher to arrive at the scene. Nichols was eventually hospitalized and died three days later.
“All these officers have not taken their oaths,” Nichols family attorney Ben Crump told DailyExpertNews’s Dana Bash on Sunday. “They have broken their oath to protect and serve. Watch That Video: Was Someone Trying to Protect and Serve Tire Nichols?
Protesters marched through New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, among other cities across the country, on Saturday, putting up signs with Nichols’ name calling for an end to abuses of authority.
“It is heartbreaking to watch events unfold, with this Tire Nichols situation. I have a son,” said Kiara Hill, standing at a makeshift memorial near the Memphis corner where Nichols was beaten. “And Tyre, of the officers on the scene, he was the calmest.”
Since Nichols’ death, the backlash has been relatively rapid. The five Memphis officers involved in the assault — who are also black — were fired and charged with murder and kidnapping in Nichols’ death. The unit they were part of was disbanded, and state legislators representing the Memphis area began planning for police reform laws.
Crump said the swift firing and arrest of the police officers and the release of video should provide a “blueprint” for how allegations of police brutality are handled in the future. He praised Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for arresting and charging the officers within 20 days.
“If you see police officers committing crimes against civilians, we want you to act just as quickly and show that the community needs to see it, but we also need to see it if it’s white police officers,” Crump said. .
These are the moments that led to Tire Nichols’ death
The five former Memphis police officers involved in the arrest have been charged with counts of manslaughter and aggravated kidnapping, among others, according to the Shelby County District Attorney.
The officers, identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., are expected to face charges on February 17.
The attorney for one of the indicted officers, Mills Jr., issued a statement Friday night saying he did not cross lines “that others crossed” during the confrontation.
All five officers were members of the now-demolished SCORPION unit, Memphis police spokesman Major Karen Rudolph told DailyExpertNews Saturday. Launched in 2021, the unit placed officers in areas where police were monitoring increases in violent crime.
The Memphis Police Department announced on Saturday that it will disband the unit, saying that “it is in everyone’s best interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION unit.”
But disbanding the unit without retraining officers would be “smearing lipstick on a pig,” City Council President Martavius Jones told DailyExpertNews Saturday.
Municipal Councillor Patrice Robinson also told DailyExpertNews that disbanding the unit doesn’t go far enough in addressing issues within the agency.
“We have to fight the bad players in our community, and now we have to fight our own police officers. That’s unfortunate,” Robinson said. “We’ll have to do something.”
The fallout from the deadly encounter also extended to other agencies involved.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ primary care were relieved of their duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation. And two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been placed on furlough pending an investigation.
A pair of Democratic state lawmakers said Saturday they plan to introduce police reform legislation before the Tennessee General Assembly’s filing deadline on Tuesday.
The bills will focus on mental health care for law enforcement officers, hiring, training, discipline practices and other topics, said Rep. GA Hardaway, representing part of Memphis and Shelby County.
Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who also represents part of Memphis, said the legislation could pass the state House as early as April or May.
While Democrats are outnumbered with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is nonpartisan and must be passed on both sides of the legislature.
“You would find it hard to look at this footage (from Tire Nichols) and see what happened to that young man, OK, and not want to do anything. If a dog in this county was beaten like that, what the hell would happen? said Steden.
On national legislation, Crump called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was passed in 2021 by the Democratic-controlled House, but not the evenly split Senate.
The Congressional Black Caucus is requesting a meeting with President Joe Biden this week to push for police reform negotiations, caucus chairman Steven Horsford wrote in a news release on Sunday.
“We call on our colleagues in the House and Senate to jump-start negotiations now and work with us to address the public health epidemic of police brutality that disproportionately affects many of our communities,” he wrote. “Tire Nichols’ brutal beating was murder and is a stark reminder that we have a long way to go in solving systemic police brutality in America.”
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Congress to revive national police reform legislation, saying the previously stalled legislation was a good starting point.
“It’s the right premise, and Senator (Cory) Booker, chairman of the crime subcommittee, has been working on this for years. I think he and Senator (Tim) Scott should sit back down soon and see if we can revive that effort, but that alone isn’t enough. We need a national conversation about policing in a responsible, constitutional and humane way,” he said.
‘There’s no OR here’: Ex-NYPD official responds to Memphis footage
By the time she saw her son lying badly bruised and swollen in his hospital bed, Nichols’ mother said she knew he wouldn’t make it.
“When I saw that, I knew my son was gone, the end,” RowVaughn Wells told DailyExpertNews.
Through tears, the mother said the officers charged with her son’s death “disgraced their own families. They have disgraced the black community.”
‘I don’t have my baby. I will never have my baby again,” she said. But she takes comfort in knowing that her son was a good person, she said.
The 29-year-old was a father and also the baby of his family, the youngest of four children. He was a “good boy” who spent his Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, his mother said.
A GoFundMe created by Nichols’ mother raised more than $1,085,600 Sunday afternoon. The donations will go towards the costs of Wells and her husband’s mental health care, as well as their time off, according to the page. It also adds that they want to build a memorial skate park in honor of Tire and his love of skating and sunsets.
The online fundraiser reads in part: “My baby was just trying to get home to be safe in my arms. Tire was unarmed, non-threatening and respectful to the police throughout the fight!”
Nichols loved being a father to his 4-year-old son, his family said.
“All he was trying to do was better himself as a father to his 4-year-old son,” Crump said at the family’s press conference.
“He always said he would be famous one day. I didn’t know he meant this,” Wells said Friday.