Who was Tyre Nichols?
Tyre Nichols was a Black motorist who died in a hospital on January 10th, three days after being beaten by police during a traffic stop.
Nichols, 29, worked for FedEx and was the father of a four-year-old boy. His family described him as a “good kid” who enjoyed skateboarding and photography.
“He worked the second shift and would return to his mother’s house every evening around 7 o’clock for a meal break,” according to a media report.
What happened to Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee?
President Biden has called for calm ahead of the release of video footage showing five Memphis police officers fatally injuring Tyre Nichols, 29.
Cities across the country are “gearing up for protests” following the release of the video, which has been described as “gruesome and distressing,” said The New York Times.
“Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” said President Biden. “Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”
He added: “Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.”
Following Nichols’ death, five police officers – Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith, and Tadarrius Bean – were fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.
The arrests and criminal charges come nearly three weeks after Nichols’ vehicle was stopped in Memphis for suspected reckless driving, according to police.
He was hospitalised after being apprehended by police and died three days later from what an independent autopsy indicated was “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating”, said the Nichols family lawyer, Antonio Romanucci. “He was a human piñata for those police officers,” Romanucci told reporters, according to Axios. “That is what we saw in that video.” The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed that Nichols died from his injuries on 10 January.
Key questions “remain unanswered as the nation – already wary of how police treat people of color, especially in the aftermath of the 2020 mass protests – waits for police to release footage of the incident,” CNN reported.
It’s unclear “what about Nichols’ driving might have appeared reckless” to prompt the traffic stop, or “how far Nichols fled on foot” after he was initially stopped, according to the broadcaster. Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told CNN that Nichols fled from the police because he was afraid.
“He did not run because he was trying to get rid of no drugs, no guns, no any of that. He ran because he was scared for his life,” said Wells. “And when you see the video, you will see why he was scared for his life.”
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis condemned the actions of officers involved and said she expected the community to react.
“This isn’t just a professional blunder. “This is a failure of basic humanity toward another person,” she stated. “I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand actions and results, but we must also ensure the safety of our community,” she said. “None of this is a call to incite violence or destruction against our community or our citizens.”
Who are these five police officers?
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith are the former officers who are currently in custody.
Haley, one of them, had previously been accused of using excessive force. While working for the Shelby County Division of Corrections, he was named as a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2016.
Cordarlrius Sledge, the plaintiff, claims he was an inmate in 2015 when Haley and another corrections officer accused him of flushing contraband. The two officers “punched me in the face,” according to the complaint.