Editor’s note: This article contains gory videos and descriptions of violence.
Protesters gathered in cities across the U.S. over the weekend after the police beating in Memphis that left 29-year-old Tire Nichols dead, and officials said they would continue to investigate the incident to see if additional charges would be filed.
The consequences of what happened on January 7 were relatively swift. Five Memphis police officers involved were fired and charged with murder and kidnapping in Nichols’ death, and the police force they belonged to was disbanded.
As the investigation continues, Nichols family attorney Ben Crump said he believes there will be more consequences, but “whether this leads to criminal charges, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said he could not comment on whether additional charges might be filed, but that “nothing we did last Thursday in terms of prosecution will prevent us from filing additional charges in the future.”
“We’re going to need time for the investigation to continue and to consider the allegations further,” Mulroy told CNN on Sunday.
Mulroy called it “unprecedented” that the officers had been charged within just a few weeks of the deadly standoff.
Mulroy said officials knew releasing the video without charging the officers could “cause incitement.” “The best solution is to expedite the investigation and expedite the consideration of the charges so that the charges are made first and the video released later,” he added.
The video of the encounter is ugly. It begins with a traffic stop and continues to show officers repeatedly beating Nichols with batons, punching and kicking him – including at one point with his hands bound behind his back.
He fell to 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 officials are under oath,” Crump told CNN on Sunday. “They didn’t take an oath to protect and serve. Check out that video: Is anyone trying to protect and serve Tire Nichols?”
As a makeshift memorial rose around the corner where Nichols was beaten, protesters marched in cities — from New York City to Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles — holding signs bearing the young black man’s name. signs, he was heard across the country calling out to his mother if he was kicked, beaten and pepper sprayed.
Nichols’ family, now at the center of unfamiliar media attention, remembers him as a good son and father who loved skateboarding, photography and sunsets. They recalled his smiles and hugs, and mourned moments they’ll never have again.
They also pledged “to continue to speak his name until justice is done”.
All five officers accused of beating Nichols — who are also black — were members of the now-defunct SCORPION unit, the Memphis police spokesman said. Karen Rudolph told CNN on Saturday. Launched in 2021, the unit sends officers to areas where police are tracking an uptick in violent crime.
The Memphis Police Department announced Saturday that it would permanently deactivate the department, saying “while the heinous actions of a few individuals have cast a pall of shame on Scorpio’s title, we at the Memphis Police Department must take proactive steps in the healing process. are all affected.”
“The reprehensible behavior that we’ve seen in the video, we believe is part of the SCORPION force culture,” Crump said. “So we’re asking them to disband immediately before we see something like this happen again.”
“This culture is as guilty of killing Terry Nichols as those officers,” Crump said.
Memphis City Councilman Frank Corvette said disbanding the department was the right move.
“I think it’s a smart move and the mayor was right to close it. These actions do not represent the Memphis Police Department,” Corvette said.
Memphis Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas also praised the move, saying the case should give the city a chance to “dig deeper” into the community’s relationship with police.
“We’ve seen a very peaceful and immediate sense of protest in the city of Memphis, and I think that’s because maybe we do have confidence and hope that this time the system will get it right,” Easter Thomas said.
Officers accused in the encounter with Nichols – Tadarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmett Martin and Desmond Jr. mills. – is expected to be arraigned on February 17. They face charges of second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, among other charges.
An attorney for one of the indicted officers, Mills Mills, issued a statement Friday night saying he did not cross a line “that was crossed by others” during the confrontation. Attorney Blake Baring told CNN Mills was a “victim” of the system he worked for.
At the same time, the fallout has spilled over to other institutions as well.
Pending the results of an internal investigation, two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ initial care were fired. Two deputies from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office have been suspended pending an investigation.
Crump called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in 2021 but failed to pass the evenly divided Senate.
The Congressional Black Caucus has requested a meeting with President Joe Biden this week to advance police reform negotiations, Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford wrote in a news conference Sunday.
“Tire Nichols’ brutal beating was murder, a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go to address systemic police violence in America,” he wrote.
Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee NAACP, praised Memphis Police Chief Davis for “doing the right thing” by not waiting six months to a year to fire the officer who beat Tire Nichols.
Instead of applauding Congress, she called for action by saying, “If you fail to enact and pass a bill to stop police brutality, you’re writing another black obituary. The blood of black America is on your hands. So Get up and do something.”
At the state level, two Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee said Saturday they intend to introduce police reform legislation ahead of Tuesday’s submission deadline in the Tennessee state legislature. The lawmakers said the bills would seek to address mental health care, recruitment, training, disciplinary practices and other issues for law enforcement officers. GA Hardaway, representing Memphis and part of Shelby County.
While Democrats have a minority of 24 representatives and Republicans have a majority of 99, the House of Representatives. Joe Downs Jr. said the legislation is non-partisan and should pass on both sides of the legislature.
“You’re going to have a hard time watching this footage (of Tire Nichols) to see what happened to the young man who, well, didn’t want to do something. What if a dog in this county gets beaten up like that?” Downs said.