The U.S. attorney leading the federal civil rights investigation into the death of Tire Nichols said he met with Nichols’ family earlier this week and promised to investigate the case “thoroughly.” and “methodical” investigations.
“Our federal investigation may take some time, as often happens with these matters, but we will use diligence and make decisions based on facts and the law,” said Kevin Ritz, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.
Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died three days after a confrontation with police at a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee, on Jan. 7. He was pulled over by Memphis police on suspicion of reckless driving, complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, police said.
Since then, the Memphis Police Department has fired five officers, all black, for violating policies regarding excessive use of force, the duty to intervene and the duty to provide assistance, the department said.
“The egregious nature of this incident does not reflect the good work our officers do with integrity every day,” Sheriff Cerelyn Davis said at the time.
Additionally, two members of the city’s fire department were fired.Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced investigation The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have opened civil rights investigations into Nichols’ death.
Nichols’ Jan. 10 death follows a number of recent high-profile cases involving excessive use of force by police against members of the public, especially young black men.
Authorities did not release the video or provide the public with specific details of what happened during the arrest.
Nichols was “bleeding profusely from severe beatings,” according to preliminary results of an autopsy commissioned by lawyers for his family.
“We can say that preliminary findings indicate that Thiel was bleeding profusely from the violent beating and that his observed injuries are consistent with what family members and attorneys witnessed in video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023,” Attorney Benjamin Crupp in a statement.
Officials have not released the results of Nichols’ autopsy. CNN has asked Crump for a copy of the autopsy commissioned by the family, but he said the full report is not yet ready.
Body camera footage of the incident was reviewed by family members and attorneys on Monday.
Antonio Romanucci, the family attorney, said Nichols “was defenseless the entire time. To those police officers, he was a human piñata. Three minutes of undisguised, unabashed sex with the little boy. Yes, non-stop beating.”
“What I saw on video today was horrific,” Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells said Monday. “No, Daddy, what I saw today must have been seen by my mother.”
Crump called the video “shocking,” “regrettable” and “outrageous.” He said Nichols’ mother, Ravaughn Wells, was unable to watch the first minute of the video after hearing Nichols ask “What did I do?” At the end of the video, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother three times, the lawyer said.
Nichols fled police, his stepfather said, because he was scared.
“Our son ran away because he feared for his life,” Wells said Monday. “He didn’t run because he was trying to get rid of drugs, guns, nothing. He ran because he was afraid for his life. When you see the video, you can understand why he was afraid for his life.”
Crump, who joined Nichols’ mother, stepfather, grandmother and aunt at the news conference, said the family described Nichols as a “good kid” who loved 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 wanted to make sure his office was in the loop. All those involved have been interviewed before the video was released, so it has no impact on their statements.
“Certainly, a lot of people’s questions about what happened will be answered once people see the video,” Mulroy said, noting that he believes the city will release enough footage to show “the whole thing, from the beginning to the end.” At last.”
Mulroy said prosecutors are trying to expedite the investigation and could make a decision on possible charges “in the same time frame we are considering releasing the video.”
The Memphis Police Department initially said Nichols “fleeed the scene on foot” after an altercation occurred after being pulled over. Officers chased him and another standoff ensued before Nichols was taken into custody, police said in a statement. statement on social media.
“Afterwards, the suspect complained of shortness of breath and an ambulance was called to the scene. The suspect was taken to St. Francis Hospital in a critical condition,” officials said.
The Memphis Police Department identified the fired officers as Tadarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmett Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.
Qwanesha Ward, fire department public information officer, told CNN’s Nadia Romero that the fired fire department employee was part of Nichols’ “initial patient care” and was removed “while an internal investigation is underway.”
Asked Tuesday what those fire department employees did or didn’t do, Romanucci told CNN he was “limited” in how much he could say.
“There was a fire at the scene some time before the EMS service arrived. They were there with the tires and the police before the EMS arrived,” he said.
The Memphis Police Association, the union representing the police, declined to comment on the firing, saying only that the city of Memphis and Nichols’ family “should be aware of a full record of the events leading up to his death and what may have led to it.”