How did a reckless driving charge end up as a death sentence? That is a question being asked today after the release of the videos from the traffic stop by Memphis police in the case of Tyre Nichols.
John covered the story Friday. Protests across the country were predicted and a familiar face in this kind of case is involved – attorney Ben Crump. That’s him in the green tie in the photo above. He’s become well-known ever since the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. This case is different than other cases where a black person dies or is seriously injured by police. In this case, all the people involved are black. Memphis is a city with a population that is 65% black. So, for example, Crump’s usual claims of racism don’t come into play here.
Responses to the videos have been unanimous in the public’s shock and disgust at how the event went from a traffic stop to the scene of a brutal beating that eventually led to a young man’s death. Today it is being reported that two more law enforcement officers are being held accountable for their actions that night. The five officers involved in the arrest were fired. Yesterday they were charged with second-degree murder. As I mentioned above, all are black, as was Tyre Nichols. Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. has suspended two deputies who responded to the scene after reviewing the video that left him ‘sad and angry’.
The videos of the brutal beating show the group of officers standing around ignoring Tyre Nichols, as he is writhing in pain after he was tased, beaten and pepper sprayed. The sheriff has ordered a new investigation into the arrest.
A street cam video of the altercation, which began over a traffic stop, shows two officers, who have not been identified, arriving at the scene after five had beaten and pinned Nichols, 29, to the ground.
The group of officers could be seen standing around the injured man, first bumping each other as he lays twitching on the ground before an eighth officer appears and paramedics arrive.
In his full statement, Bonner said: ‘Having watched the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who arrived on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols.
‘I have launched an internal investigation into the conduct of these deputies to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated,’ he added. ‘Both of these deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation.’
The family of Nichols has been complimentary of how quickly the five officers were held accountable and measures were taken to get them off the street. There is some talk that the Nichols family wants a probe into the actions taken by first responders that night. It is reported that an ambulance didn’t arrive on the scene until twenty minutes after a call was placed. The family wants charges to be filed for their failure to save Tyre’s life. In the meantime, the two suspended deputies could face criminal charges.
Nichols’ family attorney – Antonio Romanucci, told MSNBC that the two suspended deputies could face criminal charges like the five who were caught on camera beating the 29-year-old.
‘I will not be at all surprised when more criminal charges come against police officers, Romanucci said. ‘Am I surprised it’s taking this long?
I’ve been around long enough, I’ve had to wait six months, a year to two years or not at all for charges to come so the fact that at least the administrator part of it is coming.
‘I think we know what’s coming next. They’re going to be looked at criminally also,’ he added. ‘These officers who failed to render aid who did not intervene – they should be looked at administratively and also criminally.’
Sheriff Bonner released a statement.
‘I am a second-generation law enforcement officer, and I am troubled by what we all saw captured on video,’ Bonner said in a statement. This horrible incident tarnished the badge that I wear, and many other good officers wear every day.
‘I will do everything in my power to prevent another parent from having to bury their child in such a senseless and tragic way.
‘My heartfelt condolences are expressed to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. I am sad and angry about his tragic death,’ he added.
Rodney Wells, Tyre’s stepfather, is represented by Ben Crump. He wants criminal charges brought against the paramedics and everyone who was on the scene.
As the investigation continues over Nichols death, his stepfather Rodney Wells and his lawyer, famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, said the video demonstrates that other first responders should be reprimanded.
Wells called for criminal charges against the paramedics who appeared to stand by after his stepson was savagely beaten, while Crump questioned by a white officer who was present at the beginning of Nichols’ traffic stop hasn’t been charged yet.
‘Everyone – the fire department, paramedics that came out that stood around and didn’t do anything – they’re just as guilty,’ Wells told ABC News following the release of the video.
‘Everyone that was active in the whole scene, the whole video, should be charged,’ he added.
The five police officers now fired and criminally charged were part of the SCORPION anti-crime unit. That stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. It is described as an elite unit in the Memphis Police Department. It was launched in 2021 and consisted of 40 officers who patrol high crime hotspots throughout the city. The focus of the unit was on auto thefts, gang-related crimes, and drug-related crimes. The unit was formed at the height of a Memphis crime wave and over 500 criminals were taken off the streets in just three months. Now the unit faces possible disbandment.
UPDATE: (Jazz) Karen pointed out that Ben Crump’s “usual claims of racism don’t come into play here.” But that didn’t stop Van Jones at CNN for a moment. “The police who killed Tyre Nichols were Black. But they might still have been driven by racism.”