City of Memphis releases new documents tied to Tyre Nichols’ beating death

City of Memphis releases new documents tied to Tyre Nichols' beating death 1

The city of Memphis has released additional documents tied to the January 2023 fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by five police officers, a brutal attack captured on video that sparked outrage and intensified calls for police reform.

Background

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The city of Memphis on Wednesday released hundreds of pages of documents tied to the January 2023 fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by five police officers, including an account from a witness who saw Nichols slumped on the pavement and thought he was already dead.

Personnel Files and Investigation Files

The latest documents include personnel files for Memphis police and fire department employees who were fired, as well as internal police investigation files, a witness statement and emails between city and police officials.

The Death of Tyre Nichols

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died in a hospital Jan. 10, 2023, three days after the beating. The five officers who were charged in his killing are also Black.

Eye Witness Account

City of Memphis releases new documents tied to Tyre Nichols' beating death 2

Police spoke with a witness who lived in the neighborhood where the beating occurred and shot video and photos of the scene. The witness saw Nichols lying on the ground, according to a transcript.

Shocking Discovery

“Dude wasn’t budging … I was like, ‘Oh my god, I think he’s dead,’” the witness said.

Emergency Medical Response

The witness said an officer removed Nichols’ handcuffs and an emergency medical technician approached. Then it was clear something was wrong.

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A Tragic Moment

“The EMT guy lifts his hand, it falls,” the witness said. “It like fell real hard.”

Lack of Concern

The witness added: “It just bothered me that everybody was standing out in the street. Had no care in the world that this guy was laying here.” Previously released video shows officers and other first responders milling about and chatting as Nichols lay slumped on the ground.

Officers Involved

The documents also name the five other officers who violated department policies but were not fired.

Supervisor’s Background

Meanwhile, personnel files for Lt. Dewayne Smith, the supervisor on scene who was allowed to retire before he could be fired, show he was arrested in 1999 in a domestic violence incident. Documents show Smith’s wife called 911 saying he was intoxicated, armed and threatening her children. Investigators said they couldn’t determine if Smith actually pulled his weapon. He was encouraged to seek counseling and suspended for 15 days.

Previous Incidents

Nearly a year later, an unnecessary violence complaint was made against Smith after witnesses said he struck a man who ran from officers.

Defense of Lt. Smith

Deborah Godwin, Smith’s lawyer, said he was a dedicated officer for 25 years and that those two disciplinary issues do not represent his public service or have anything to do with Nichols’ killing.

Disproven Claims

An initial incident report for Nichols’ arrest, included among the latest documents, reasserts many now-disproven claims of the fired and charged officers.

False Narrative

It claims that after stopping Nichols for driving into oncoming traffic, he became combative, was sweating profusely and grabbed for an officer’s gun, prompting another officer to attempt to shock Nichols with his Taser. Videos released in the days after Nichols’ death and statements from Memphis Police officials have debunked much of that narrative.

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Contradicting Evidence

The report also states that once the officers caught up to Nichols on foot, he grabbed for their vests and service belts, and that officers responded by spraying him with a chemical agent, striking his right arm with a baton, and arresting him. Videos show a starkly different encounter — an almost 3-minute barrage of fists, feet and baton strikes to Nichols’ face, head, front and back, as he yells for his mother about a block from his home.

Internal Affairs Investigation

City of Memphis releases new documents tied to Tyre Nichols' beating death 3

Internal affairs officers were called to investigate about three hours after the initial traffic stop, records show. Lt. Smith was in the hospital with Nichols and said he was in critical condition with “a bump on his head.” Smith mentioned officers’ use of a stun gun and a Taser, but not the beating. Later at the station, Lt. Smith reported that he was told Nichols had grabbed Martin’s gun and Justin Smith’s vest and gun belt.

Violation of Policies

The internal affairs investigator reviewed the body camera footage of Officer Preston Hemphill, who was fired but not charged, and noted that Hemphill approached Nichols’ car with his weapon pointed. The investigator wrote of Nichols: “Non-violent. Complied with getting on the ground.”

Relief of Duty

Within three hours, the investigator told higher ups that six officers committed violations and must be relieved of duty. Deputy Chief Paul Wright approved the recommendation minutes later.

Legal Proceedings

A state judge ordered the release of the documents in November on the same day that former officer Desmond Mills Jr. pleaded guilty to federal charges in Nichols’ death.

Demand for Transparency

A coalition of media organizations, including The Associated Press, pressed for more information to be made public, citing the First Amendment. That spurred the release of 21 more hours of video and audio on Jan. 30 this year.

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Complete Disclosure

The city released some documents last year detailing the personnel records of the officers involved, and it said Wednesday that with the latest release all documents related to the court decision have been made public.

Upcoming Trials

Mills also intends to plead guilty to criminal charges in state court and could be called to testify against his four former colleagues — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith — who remain charged with federal civil rights violations and second-degree murder and other criminal counts in state court. They have pleaded not guilty.

Important Dates

Their federal trial is set for Sept. 9. The state trial begins Aug. 12, but that could change.

Consequences for Others

Two other Memphis officers were fired for their involvement, and two emergency medical technicians and a fire lieutenant lost their jobs for failing to provide adequate aid. The newly released documents also identify a paramedic who was suspended.

Accountability

One fired employee, advanced EMT JaMichael Sandridge, said during an administrative hearing that “from what we gathered on scene, there was nothing I could have done that would have prevented that patient’s death.”

Department of Justice Investigation

City of Memphis releases new documents tied to Tyre Nichols' beating death 4

The U.S. Department of Justice opened a “patterns and practices” investigation into how Memphis Police Department officers use force and conduct arrests, and whether the department in the majority-Black city engages in racially discriminatory policing.

Review of Police Practices

In March, the Justice Department announced a separate review concerning use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units in the Memphis Police Department. Also, Nichols’ mother has sued the city and its police chief over her son’s death.

Conclusion

The fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by five police officers in Memphis has raised serious concerns about police brutality and the need for police reform. The release of additional documents sheds light on the incident and the actions of the officers involved. As the legal proceedings continue, it is crucial to hold those responsible accountable and ensure justice for Tyre Nichols and his family.