Tyre Nichols Credit: Family photo

UPDATED February 9: Eight more officers with the Memphis Police Department will face charges in the death of Tyre Nichols last month, officials said on Feb. 7. Memphis City Attorney Jennifer Sink, with Police Chief C. J. Davis standing beside her, made the announcement during a city council meeting. Responding to questions about an ongoing investigation at the police department, Sink said eight
additional Memphis police officers are expected to receive a statement of charges – a document outlining their “policy violations” – in connection with Nichols’ arrest. At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Sink said a total of 13 Memphis police officers have now been implicated in Nichols’ death, at least on administrative charges. She was prohibited from publicly identifying eight officers due to receive statements because the investigation into their conduct is still ongoing.

The traditional sights and sound that mark the kickoff each year of Black History Month were temporarily delayed as thousands of thousands of Americans witnessed, either in person or virtually, the homegoing service for Tyre Nichols on Wednesday, February 1 at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Nichols, 29, a native of Sacramento, California, and the father of a young boy, was a resident of Memphis, Tennessee, where his mother, stepfather, and siblings also lived. The funeral occurred nearly three weeks after he died on January 10 following a beating by police. The beating by five Memphis Police Department officers, all Black, was captured on video and released to the public last week.

The gruesome assault, documented in four videos totaling 67 minutes, has ignited a furry of protests across the country with a renewal of demands for police reform nationwide. Nichols, allegedly stopped by police for a traffic violation, was repeatedly punched, kicked, pepper sprayed, and hit with a taser as the violent assault continued to escalate in severity. Experts familiar with the methods routinely employed in the policing of Black men found the beating extremely excessive. “It’s hard to see a moment in the videos where [Tyre] was a threat to those officers as they claimed,” said Wesley Lowrey, author of “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy, emphasized that the 29-year-old Black man lost his life in the same city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. “Dr. King shed his blood for city workers, Black city workers, to be able to work in the police department and the sanitation department,” Sharpton said during his eulogy. “And the reason why what happened to Tyre is so personal to me is that five Black men who wouldn’t have had a job in the police department, never thought of to be in an elite squad, in the city where Dr. King lost his life and not far from that balcony of the Lorraine Motel, beat a brother to death.” “There’s nothing more insulting and offensive to those of us who fight to open doors, that you walk through those doors and chose to act like the folks we had to fight to get you through those doors.”

Sharpton also criticized the other city workers who stood by and did nothing, including other police officers and emergency medical staff. At the same time, Nichols lay prostrate on the street, fighting for his life. “You had the unmitigated gall to beat a brother [so viciously] and then were too busy talking among yourselves to come to his aid,” he said. “No empathy – no concern. Like the story of Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis, no one came to help him. No one came to help Tyre.” Sharpton added, “What touched me was when I heard him call for his mother, like George Floyd. It’s something you’d have to be a Black man to understand – the only thing standing between you and disaster is often your mother. I understood Tyre. All he wanted to do was get home. It’s where you have peace, where everything is alright.” Vice President Kamala Harris praised the parents of Nichols for “your strength, your courage and your grace” and said people across the U.S. were also grieving the death of their son. “The people of our country mourn with you.”

And Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Nichols family, noted that Nichols’ death has resulted in a “call to action” – one which has supporters who have already suffered the injustice now experienced by Tyre Nichols and his loved ones including Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who both attended the funeral.

Finally, Harris, Sharpton and Crump all called on federal lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled in the Senate in 2021 and would introduce major changes to policing across the U.S., including the elimination of qualified immunity for officers. “Tyre’s mother said she believes God used her son for an assignment,” Crump said. “And while painful and tragic, that assignment is for reform. She believes we can create a law in Tyre’s name that will emphasize the importance of police officers to have a duty to intervene, even if those crimes being committed are by their fellow officers.” “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen to unarmed Blacks in America. But it is the first time we’ve seen justice move forward so swiftly.” “We don’t care if the officers are Black or white. We want equal justice under the law,” Crump said.

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