Newly-released video sheds light on death of Tyre Nichols


(City of Memphis via AP, File)

In this image from video released and partially redacted by the City of Memphis, Tyre Nichols lies on the ground during a brutal attack by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn.

Patrick Kane, World News Editor

On Jan. 7, a 29-year-old Memphis man named Tyre Nichols was pulled over by members of the Memphis Police Department for allegedly driving recklessly. Three days later, he was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital. On Jan. 27, MPD finally released the footage that filled in the gap in between.

According to the video, Nichols was stopped by several police officers for a supposed driving infraction. Suddenly, he was ripped from his car and was then both tased and pepper sprayed. He managed to break away and run towards his mother’s house (the incident occurred around the corner) but was eventually caught. At that point, five officers began to beat Nichols, punching and kicking him in the head repeatedly. Once restrained, one of the officers began to use his baton on Nichols, striking him in the back over and over again. Throughout the entire incident, Nichols was crying out for his mother. An ambulance would not arrive for 17 minutes.

The five officers involved, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, Desmond Mills and Justin Smith, were fired from the force on Jan. 20 and six days later were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping by the Shelby County District Attorney. In addition, two firefighters who were working the ambulance that arrived on the scene were relieved of duty pending an investigation.

Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis remarked, “This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual.” President Joe Biden spoke with Nichol’s family and released a statement condemning the incident saying, “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.”

In the wake of the video’s release, nationwide protests have erupted, demanding reform and future accountability. During the lead-up to the video, Biden and mayors across the country released preemptive statements calling for protests to remain peaceful.

In addition to the aforementioned charges, the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI have opened a civil rights investigation.

Elizabeth Stiles, an associate professor of political science at John Carroll University and faculty advisor to the Pre-Law Society, gave her input on how this tragic incident will affect future police reform, particularly when it comes to the oft-debated topic of qualified immunity.

“All of these videos plus the powerful social movement that swept across the country in 2020 may be chipping away at political support for qualified immunity, particularly the clearly established law standard. Courts have interpreted qualified community to mean that to assert their rights have been violated by the police, the plaintiff has to show that the officer was violating a law that had already been violated in a very similar way in the same jurisdiction (almost impossible). When political support for that interpretation lessens, courts will respond.”

In addition to pressing charges, MPD and Shelby County will also be dissolving the SCORPION (Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) unit that the accused officers were a part of.