Take Nichols: Federal prosecutor promises full investigation into post-prison death of 29-year-old black man

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The US attorney overseeing the federal civil rights investigation into Tire Nichols’ death said he met with Nichols’s family earlier this week and promised his investigation into the case will be “thorough” and “methodical.”

“Our federal investigation may take some time, as these things often do, but we will be diligent and make decisions based on the facts and the law,” said Kevin Ritz, US Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died three days after a confrontation with police on Jan. 7 during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been pulled over for alleged reckless driving by Memphis police officers, police said, and after his arrest he complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.

Since then, the Memphis Police Department has fired five officers, all black, for violating the Excessive Use of Force, Duty to Intervene, and Duty to Relieve policies. the department said.

“The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work our officers do, with integrity, every day,” Chief Cerelyn Davis said at the time.

In addition, two members of the city’s fire department were fired. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced a investigation about Nichols’s death and the US Department of Justice and the FBI opened a civil rights investigation.

Nichols’ death on Jan. 10 follows a string of recent, high-profile cases involving police using excessive force against members of the public, especially young black men.

Authorities have not released the video or provided the public with specific details about what happened during the arrest.

According to preliminary results of an autopsy commissioned by his family’s lawyers, Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating”.

“We can state that preliminary findings indicate that Tire suffered heavy bleeding from a severe beating and that his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023.” , attorney Benjamin Crump said in a declaration.

Authorities have not released Nichols’s autopsy. CNN asked Crump for a copy of the autopsy commissioned by the family, but he said the full report was not yet ready.

The family and lawyers viewed camera footage of the incident on Monday.

The family’s lawyer, Antonio Romanucci, said Nichols was “defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata to those cops. It was an unadulterated, brazen, non-stop spanking by this boy for three minutes.

“What I saw on video today was horrible,” Rodney Wells, Nichols’s stepfather, said on Monday. “No father, mother should have to witness what I saw today.”

Crump described the video as “terrible”, “deplorable” and “hideous”. He said Ravaughn Wells, Nichols’s mother, was unable to watch the first minute of footage after hearing Nichols ask, “What did I do?” At the end of the footage, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother three times, the lawyer said.

Nichols ran away from the police, his stepfather said, because he was scared.

“Our son ran away because he feared for his life,” Wells said on Monday. “He didn’t run because he was trying to get off drugs, guns, none of that. He fled because he feared for his life. And when you see the video, you will see why he feared for his life.”

Crump, who was joined by Nichols’ mother, stepfather, grandmother and aunt at a news conference, said the family described Nichols as “a good kid” who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and computers.

Video of the incident could be released this week or next, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN’s Laura Coates Tuesday night, but he wants to make sure his office has interviewed everyone. those involved before releasing the video, so that it does not have an impact on their statements.

“A lot of people’s questions about what exactly happened will, of course, be answered once people watch the video,” Mulroy said, noting that he believes the city will release enough footage to show “the entire incident, from the beginning. until the end.”

Prosecutors are trying to expedite the investigation and may determine possible charges “in the same period that we contemplate releasing the video,” Mulroy said.

Pictured, from left, are former officers Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills and, below, from left, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean.

The Memphis Police Department initially said there was a confrontation after Nichols was pulled over and he “fled the scene on foot.” Officers gave chase and there was another confrontation before Nichols was taken into custody, police said in a statement. declaration on the social networks.

“Later, the suspect complained of shortness of breath, at which point an ambulance was called to the scene. The suspect was transported to St. Francis in critical condition,” officials said.

The Memphis Police Department identified the fired officers as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

The fire department employees who were fired were part of Nichols’ “initial patient care” and were relieved of their duties “while an internal investigation is being conducted,” the department’s public information officer, Qwanesha Ward, said. to Nadia Romero of CNN.

Asked on Tuesday what fire department officials did and did not do, Romanucci told CNN there were “limitations” on how much he could say.

“For a period of time before EMS services arrived on site, fire was on site. And they are there with Tire and the cops before the EMS arrives,” he said.

The Memphis Police Association, the union representing officers, declined to comment on the terminations, saying only that the city of Memphis and Nichols’s family “deserve to know the full account of the events leading up to his death and what may have contributed.” for that”. .”

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