On January 7, police in Memphis pulled over 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, an unarmed Black man, over an alleged traffic violation. However, Nichols’ family maintains that he was simply trying to take pictures of the sunset at the time of the stop.
The incident quickly escalated as officers approached Nichols’ vehicle, and he ran. According to the police, a confrontation ensued as they apprehended Nichols, leading to a physical altercation while taking him into custody. Tragically, Nichols died at the hospital three days after the initial stop.
In response to the incident, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has called the officers’ actions a failure to the community. “This is not just a professional failing, this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual,” she stated.
Body camera footage of the incident was recently released, showing the moments leading up to Nichols’ death. In one video, an officer can be seen pulling out what appears to be a stun gun as Nichols tries to flee. After catching him, officers are seen beating him, with one saying “You wanna get sprayed?” as Nichols cries out for his mother. In another video, Nichols appears unconscious and is beaten with a baton by an officer.
Following the incident, five officers were charged in Nichols’ death: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. All five officers were Black. They were fired from the department approximately 11 days after the incident and each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnappings, official misconduct, and official oppression.
On Friday, the day before the video release, four of the five officers posted bond and were released from jail. Mills, Smith, and Bean each had a $250,000 bond, while Martin and Haley had a $350,000 bond.
In response to the incident, Nichols’ mother urged the public to protest in peace, stating “I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets because that’s not what my son stood for.” Law enforcement officials from other cities have also spoken out against the officers’ actions, with LAPD Chief Michel Moore calling it “grotesque” and “incredibly disturbing, cruel and inhumane.”
As the nation continues to process this tragic incident and the footage that has been released, it is important to remember that help is available for those who may be struggling. The Disaster Distress Helpline offers 24/7 emotional support and can be reached by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990. Additionally, there are resources available for those wishing to protest in a peaceful and lawful manner.