March 5, 2024

DoJ announces investigation of Memphis police department after Tyre Nichols death at h

The Justice Department will investigate whether the city of Memphis and its police department systematically violated civil rights, officials announced on Thursday.

Memphis police faced widespread condemnation and nationwide protests earlier this year following the homicide of Tyre Nichols, an unarmed 29-year-old Black man who was viciously beaten by a large group of officers during a traffic stop in January and died three days later.

“The tragic death of Tyre Nichols created enormous pain in the Memphis community and across the country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Protesters march in Memphis, Tennessee, over the death of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by police during a traffic stop

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“The Justice Department is launching this investigation to examine serious allegations that the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and discriminatory policing based on race, including a dangerously aggressive approach to traffic enforcement,” he added.

On 7 January, a group of officers in the infamous, now-disbanded Memphis Scorpions special police unitpulled Nichols over in a traffic stop.

Body cameras caught the officers ripping him from his car, screaming at Nichols, and threatening to break his hands as officers tased him and wrestled him to the ground.

“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” he can be heard telling officers. “I’m just trying to go home.”

The 29-year-old briefly fled police on foot, and a large group of officers later caught up with him, once again violently wrestling the unarmed man to the ground, this time while kicking him in the head, pepper-spraying him, and repeatedly bludgeoning him with a police baton.

Nichols could be heard calling for his mother.

Bodycam footage then showed officers standing around and laughing as Nichols slumped against a car, seemingly unconscious.

On 10 January, Nichols died in hospital of his injuries, with coroners declaring the death a homicide from blunt force trauma to the head.

Five of the now-former Memphis police officers involved in the death – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr – have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. They have all pleaded not guilty.

In Memphis, Black people are 1.5 times more likely to be shot by police than white people, according to data from Mapping Police Violence.

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