Death of Tyre Nichols
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The Death of Tyre Nichols refers to the killing of 29-year-old Tyre Deandre Nichols at the hands of five police officers in the city of Memphis, Tennessee on January 7th, 2023. After stopping Nichols for alleged reckless driving, the officers pulled him from his car and proceeded to severely beat him, ultimately resulting in his death in a hospital three days after. Later that month, Nichols' death became a national police brutality story and viral controversy online after bodycam footage of the police beating was released, which subsequently sparked protests around the United States, similar to George Floyd and the mid-2020 protests. Nichols' death was considered by many as a modern-day example of Rodney King. The five offending officers were fired on January 20th, 2023, and then arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping, assault and misconduct roughly a week later.
Police Altercation and Death
On the night of January 7th, 2023, around 8:24 p.m., Tyre Nichols was stopped by police close to his residence in Hickory Hill in the city of Memphis, Tennessee for reckless driving, according to the Memphis Police Department. During the initial first conflict, it is reported that Nichols was pulled from his vehicle as officers attempted to push him to the ground. A struggle then began as he was pepper sprayed and tased, with the spray also hitting several of the officers. Sometime during the escalating struggle, Nichols broke free and fled, with a second altercation taking place shortly after as additional cops arrived. This second encounter is where severe injuries were incurred as policed reportedly beat Nichols for around three minutes.
According to reports, roughly 13 minutes after Nichols was pulled over and beaten, he was then handcuffed and left laying against a cruiser. Medics arrived around five minutes later to assist Nichols, but did not begin treatment until 16 minutes after, with an ambulance then taking him to a nearby hospital around 9:02 p.m. Following the altercation with police, Nichols then died in the hospital three days later on January 10th, 2023, with an autopsy determining his death was due to "excessive bleeding caused by a severe beating."
Investigations and Charges Against Officers
Shortly after the incident on January 7th, 2023, District Attorney Steve Mulroy asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to begin investigating the potential use of excessive force during the arrest. Roughly a week later, the Memphis Police Department then announced to the public that the five officers involved would face administrative action, with the Department of Justice and the FBI also opening up an investigation on January 18th. As details surrounding the incident continued coming to light, the Memphis Police Department then stated that the offending officers would be fired on January 20th, with the five officers subsequently being arrested and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression on the 24th.
Bodycam Footage Release and Weekend Protests
On January 27th, 2023, the Memphis Police Department then released four separate videos of footage showing the events of Nichols' altercation and beating by police on the night of the 7th. As the bodycam footage was released in its four stages, protests began to spring up in various cities that Friday night as people began decrying the act of police brutality. Protests were conducted in several cities across America, with New York having multiple city streets shut down as a result (shown below).
Over the weekend into Sunday, protests continued in different regions around the U.S., with final reports Sunday indicating no riots had broken out and no loss of life or large property damage occurring — a stark contrast to what was seen previously during the George Floyd protests, as reported by NBC News on January 28th (shown below).
Dissolution of Police Squad
It was reported following the body-camera footage being released on January 27th, 2023, that the officers who were already arrested were part of a unit called the "Scorpion Unit," which stood for "Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods," that was then quickly dissolved following the release of the footage. This development led to a lot of TikToks and other social media posts about the unit and what it meant, such as one posted on Saturday, January 28th, by TikToker gelnewswire (shown below).
@gelnewswire What is the SCORPION unit? Did Memphis create an elite unit or a reckless gang? #memphis #tyrenichols #acab #policeoftiktok #interesting ♬ original sound – GelNews
Throughout the latter half of January 2023, Nichols' death received a large amount of social media attention due to the circumstances of his killing by police. For example, numerous posts on TikTok and Twitter detailing what was known at the time continued to appear throughout the course of the month, as seen in the TikTok by @birthnamelucci on January 14th, 2023, which received over 1.4 million views in two weeks (shown below).
@birthnamelucci #JusticeForTyre #nojusticenopeace #prosecutethepolice #memphisdepay ♬ original sound – Lucci Charm
Due to the nature of the event (being another in a growing list of controversial deaths as a result of police actions), the topic of protests and riots was immediately thought of by many reacting to Nichols' killing. When news of the five officers being arrested for manslaughter came in late January 2023 and it was revealed that bodycam footage was being released in the following days, social media posts notably began making references the potential of future protests and riots that were believed would inevitably take place, such as the TikTok by @justcallmeajoeburrfan9 on January 22nd, 2023, being viewed over 250,000 times in five days (shown below).
@justcallmeajoeburrfan9 #tyrenichols #memphis #GenshinImpact34 #FastTwitchContest #justicefortyrenichols #wtf #fy #fyp #fypage ♬ original sound – Patricia Steve
As revealed by CBS News, the expectation of riots and protests was so high that the bodycam footage was pushed to be released on Friday, January 27th, at night — reportedly to allow police time to lock down and secure schools and businesses, with a snippet of that newscast being uploaded to TikTok on January 27th, 2023, by TikToker @rakish_burner, gaining over 20,000 views in two hours (shown below).
@rakish_burner Body Cam footage of the arrest of Tyre Nichols will be released before midnight eastern tonight. Police around the country are waiting for schools and businesses to close for the weekend so projected timing of the release is around 8pm PST, 11pm EST. Backlash is for sure coming! #FYP #tyrenichols #memphis #memphispolice #justicefortyrenichols #tyrenicholsbodycam #sayhisname #BLM #breakingnews #cbsnews #cbs #viralstory #viralvideo #foryou #foryoupage #NYPD ♬ original sound – Idaho Updates Daily
@livingspreekween #tyrenichols #RowVaughnWells #mustwatch #justicefortyrenichols #blacktiktok #news #newsattiktok #fyp #foryoupage #foryou #foryourpage ♬ original sound – LivingSpreeKween
@gma BREAKING: "In my 36 years, I would have to say I don't think I've ever been more horrified and disgusted, sad, but just, you know, and to some degree confused." Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis on her reaction to seeing the body cam video of Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols. #news #police #memphis #tyrenichols ♬ original sound – Good Morning America
All 5 officers have been charged in the murder of Tyre Nichols.
@diamondolicious #rip #tyrenichols #blacklivesmatter #stoppolicebrutality ♬ original sound – DiamondLoveJoy💎
 TikTok – BirthNameLucci
 TikTok – justcallmeajoeburrfan9
 TikTok – Rakish_Burner
 TikTok – Gelnewswire
 Axios – City of Memphis releases footage of police fatally beating Tyre Nichols
 Commercial Appeal – police kicking, pepper spraying, beating Tyre Nichols after traffic stop
 BBC – Autopsy indicates Tyre Nichols was beaten by police
 CBS News – 5 Memphis police officers fired in death of Tyre Nichols
Jan 29, 2023 at 07:46PM EST
Dr. Cave Johnson
Jan 30, 2023 at 07:25PM EST
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