On January 7th, Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was pulled over in Memphis for what police labeled reckless driving. Nichols was beaten by officers. He died in a hospital three days later.
The Nichols’ family has deployed legal action against the police officers, and they have been dismissed. The video of the violence has surfaced. It shows officers dragging Nichols from his car. They taser and beat him after he tries to flee, Nichols can be heard screaming and calling out for his mother.
Antonio Romanucci, the attorney representing the victim’s family, has stated that Tyre was “defenseless” during the incident, stating that the officers had beaten the man for three minutes with no resistance. He also explains Nichols’ innocence: police had no foundation to stop his car, let alone physically harm him.
Six police officers involved have been fired, and five of them have been charged with second-degree murder, assault and kidnapping. They are also being investigated further by the state and federal authorities. Three Memphis emergency workers did not provide sufficient medical treatment for Nichols at the scene, and were also fired.
Nichols was clearly hurt and disoriented, but first responders did little to help. Through video footage, it is clear that they did not follow protocol: they failed to stop any major bleeding and did not assess the patient’s breathing. They had helped him sit up a few times, and did not touch him for seven minutes afterwards. Police officers told the medical workers that the suspect was on drugs, which may explain their lack of urgency to provide aid.
Proper treatment for Nichols only began 15 minutes after medics’ arrived. Only then, 21 minutes after the last hit, did they provide medical aid to the heavily injured patient. It is not clear whether Nichols would have had a higher chance of survival if help was provided earlier, but brain damage is time-sensitive, every minute matters. Three days later, Nichols died from internal bleeding. An autopsy revealed he died from the physical harm dealt by police officers.
President Joe Biden condemned the “horrific” event and shared his condolences with Nichols’ family. He addressed police brutality in the country, “…yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, pain and exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day.” Vice-President Kamala Harris also called for justice at the victim’s funeral.
There has been significant backlash from the public, but both the victim’s mother and Memphis authorities have urged protestors to remain peaceful. Cerelyn Davis, the Memphis Police Chief promised “absolute accountability” for the officers responsible, and she requested peace in the city until those guilty are brought to justice.
Peaceful protests were held across the US. In Memphis, protestors shut down the I-55 bridge for nearly three hours as they called for justice for Tyre. The Grand Central Station in New York was shut down in anticipation of protests, which took place in Times Square instead. Protests were also held in Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Detroit and Atlanta. A protest in Los Angeles escalated slightly when demonstrators tore down a barricade around the LA Police Department headquarters, but the situation eventually calmed down.
Police brutality against people of color has been an enduring issue in the United States. The topic has become a topic of greater public interest since the passing of George Floyd in 2020. But the dire situation persists. It is necessary to collectively stand against racial injustices, only by doing so will we achieve true justice for the victims.