This week, outrage erupted across the U.S. over the police killing of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man in Memphis, Tennessee, on January 10. Here is what we know so far about Nichols’s death and its aftermath.
Who was Tyre Nichols?
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black father to a four-year-old son, lived in California before moving to Memphis, Tennessee during the COVID-19 pandemic. A FedEx employee at the time of his death, Nichols was passionate about photography and skateboarding, with his extended community of Memphis-area skateboarders and activists recently gathering to mourn his loss.
What were the circumstances surrounding Nichols’s death?
On January 7, 2023, Nichols was violently beaten by five Black Memphis police officers who had pulled him over for alleged reckless driving. The Memphis police said in an initial statement that a “confrontation occurred” as the officers approached the vehicle and Nichols ran away; the police claimed that there was “another confrontation” as officers arrested him, and that an ambulance was called after he complained of shortness of breath. Nichols died three days later, with an independent autopsy finding that he “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” On Friday, body cam footage of the beating, which lasted for about three minutes, was released. A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was suspended on Monday, although the exact nature of his involvement in the attack is unknown.
What kind of consequences have ensued for the police officers who attacked Nichols?
The Memphis Police Department announced last week that the five officers involved in Nichols’s beating—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith—had been fired, after an internal investigation found that they used excessive force and failed to intervene or provide help. On Thursday, the officers were variously charged with kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression in addition to second-degree murder.
What kind of public response has Nichols’s death prompted?
“The actions of all of [the police officers] resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” Memphis district attorney Steven J. Mulroy said on Thursday in a statement that echoed the fury of activists and protestors who have planned demonstrations against police brutality in Memphis and other U.S. cities. “I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest,” President Joe Biden said on Thursday, and Lora Dene King—the daughter of police brutality victim Rodney King—called the video of Nichols’s beating “extremely sickening” in a recent statement. “We should not have to witness such things in this world over and over with a different name behind the hashtags,” she added.