On the eve of Tyre Nichols’ funeral, his family plans to gather Tuesday with the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump at the historic Mason Temple in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech the night before he was assassinated, to speak about the latest developments in the case.
Two more Memphis police officers were disciplined and three emergency responders fired in connection with Nichols’ death, officials said Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill, who is white, and another officer whose name wasn’t released, have been suspended, police said.
Five Black officers were fired last week and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in Nichols’ Jan. 7 beating and death three days later. Video of the beating, which was released publicly last week, shows that many more people failed to help Nichols beyond the five officers charged in his death.
Six officers were part of the so-called Scorpion unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Other Memphis residents who say they also were “brutalized” by officers in the unit will speak, according to a statement from Crump.
Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said after the video’s release that the unit has been disbanded.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but due to the severity of the situation it’s not enough,” Damion Carrick, 44, said as he participated in a protest Monday evening at Shelby Farms Park. “You got a man dragged out of his car, beaten senseless, to a pulp and nobody doing nothing about it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Nichols’ death was the latest in a long string of early accounts by police about their use of force that were later shown to have minimized or omitted violent and sometimes deadly encounters.
Memphis Police Department officers used a stun gun, a baton and their fists as they pummeled Nichols during the nighttime arrest. Video shows Nichols running away from officers toward his house after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. The video footage released Friday shows the 29-year-old father calling for his mother and struggling with his injuries as he sits helpless on the pavement.
The five officers chatted and milled about for several minutes as Nichols remained on the ground, but there were other authorities on the scene. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies also have been suspended without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Nichols’ older brother, Jamal Dupree, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that he feels guilty because he wasn’t there to protect his younger sibling.
“I’m 99% sure that my brother has never gotten into a fight before. And the one time he got into an altercation with other humans, we wasn’t there to protect him. My brother was trying to cooperate with them,” Dupree, who lives in California, said of the Memphis officers.
Dupree said he hasn’t watched the police video.
“I already knew how they treated him because I’ve seen it all over the world,” Dupree said. “Police brutality is nothing new. I already knew they treated my brother like an animal. They treated him like he was nothing. I don’t have to watch the video to know that.”
He said he has seen reports about his brother and thinks other people are learning about who he was as a person.
“I think people really know my brother did not deserve this,” he told CNN. “He was not that type of person. Yeah, he was just a good guy around the board. ... We want justice.”
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Nichols, have accepted an invitation to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week at the Capitol. They will attend with Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Vincent Evans, a spokesperson for the caucus.
Nichols’ funeral is set for Wednesday at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis. Sharpton will give the eulogy and Crump will speak immediately after the funeral. Those expected to be in attendance include Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, and Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.
The deaths of Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and Floyd in Minneapolis, at the hands of police sparked protests across the nation about racial injustice.
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