What we know, and still don't know, about what led to the death of Tire Nichols | CNN (2023)


It's been nearly three weeks since a Memphis traffic stop resulted in the violent arrest and death of the 29-year-old black driver three days later.

Tire Nichols was hospitalized after himstopped on january 7th, said the police. Five Memphis Police Department officers, also black, were fired after an internal investigation and are doing sofaced with criminal charges, including second-degree murder.

Key questions remain unanswered as the nation is already on guardhow the police sometimes treat people of color, especially after theMass protests 2020- waiting forpolice to release imagesof the incident.

Here's what we know:

The Police "Confrontation"

January 7, around 8:30 pm.Memphis officials stopped a vehicleunder suspicion of reckless driving, according to a statement from the Memphis Police Department.

"There was a confrontation" between the officers and the driver of the vehicle - who was later identified as Nichols - who fled on foot, according to Memphis police. Officers arrested him and "another confrontation ensued" which led to Nichols' arrest, police said.

The incident happened just a few blocks from her home, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis told CNN's Don Lemon on Friday.

"We've looked at the cameras, we've looked at the body-worn cameras, even if something happened before that stop, we couldn't prove it at this point," Davis said.

In this still frame from video released by the city of Memphis, officers try to arrest Tire Nichols during a traffic stop. City of Memphis A brutal beating. Cry for your mother. 23 minutes delay in service. Here are the main takeaways from the Tire Nichols police videos

"We looked very hard to determine what the probable cause was and we couldn't prove it," she said. "That doesn't mean something didn't happen, but there's no proof."

It is also unclear who was involved in the initial encounter with the police, how far Nichols fled on foot, how the officers arrested him, how long these "showdowns" lasted, or why the officers felt compelled to confront Nichols twice.

In addition to footage from police body cameras, police were looking at surveillance cameras at businesses across the city — anything that might help paint a picture of what happened before the traffic stop, Davis said.

After officers stopped Nichols' car, there was physical interaction with Nichols as officers tried to pull him out of the car, but the original reason for the stop was unknown, the chief said.

From the start of the encounter, the officers involved were upset, the chief said. "The escalation was already at a high level," Davis said.

The nature of the traffic jam was very aggressive with noisy communications, and it escalated from there, she said.

Pepper spray was used during the first fight, which involved several officers, and Nichols fled, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference on Thursday.

Brad Vest/Getty Images/FILE A timeline of the investigation into the death of Tire Nichols following a traffic stop and arrest by Memphis police

Nichols escaped, but officers "found him elsewhere and at that moment there was an unexplained assault," he said.

"There was another altercation at a nearby location in which Mr. Nichols suffered serious injuries," Mulroy continued. "After waiting for some time afterwards, he was taken away by an ambulance."

"I heard him calling for his mother, for his mother," Davis said, referring to the video. "Just the disregard for humanity... That's what really gets to you and makes you wonder: why was there a lack of warmth and concern for this person from everyone there?"

There was then a "time lapse" before Nichols received medical attention after being injured during the traffic stop by Memphis police officers, Mulroy said.

"After waiting for some time, he was taken away by an ambulance," he said.

On January 10, three days after the stop, Nichols died from injuries sustained in the "police violence incident", according to a statement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Nichols suffered "abundant bleeding caused by severe beatings", according to preliminary results of an autopsy commissioned by his family's lawyers.

"We can state that preliminary results indicate that Tire suffered profuse bleeding due to severe beatings and his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and lawyers saw on video of his fatal encounter with police on March 7, 2023," he said. the lawyer.Benjamin Crump said as much in a statement.

CNN asked Crump for a copyAutopsy on behalf of the family, but said the full report is not ready. Authorities also did not release Nichols's autopsy.

All five officers are charged in Nichols' death

After its internal investigation, the Memphis Police Departmentfive officers identified and firedinvolved in traffic control for violating various department policies.

Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were fired for failing to fulfill their "excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to provide assistance," the department said in an explanation.

keep reading

  • What We Don't Know About Nichols' Death
  • Nichols was a "good boy" who enjoyed skateboarding and photography.
  • A timeline of the case so far
  • Those who have seen the video describe it as horrible.
  • Read this before deciding to watch the video
  • What we know about the SCORPION drive
  • Video leads to new calls for police reform
  • Who is Cerelyn "CJ" Davis, Chief of Police in Memphis?
  • Which Memphis officers got it right
  • Martin III, Smith, Bean, Haley and Mills, Jr. were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of misconduct and one count of official repression, according to the two Shelby County felons and Shelby County Jail Records.

    The Memphis Police Association, the union representing officers, declined to comment on the terminations, saying only that the city of Memphis and the Nichols family "deserve to know the full account of the events that transpired." which may have contributed to this," read a statement.

    All five officers were released on bail.

    At a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon, Blake Ballin, attorney for Mills, and William Massey, attorney for Martin, said they had not yet seen video of the police confrontation.

    "Nobody out there wanted Tire Nichols to die that night," Massey said.

    Ballin described Mills as a "respectful father" who was "devastated" at being accused of murder.

    Lawyers for other officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Davis "expected serious allegations, I expected it," the chief said. "Actually, the charges brought, at least the administrative ones, were probably the most serious I've seen in my career, but they were entirely reasonable," Davis said.

    It is unclear what role each officer played in the incident.

    There is now no evidence that the officers involved have acted in this way in the past, Davis said, adding that police are "drilling down into previous arrests and past footage."

    What we know, and still don't know, about what led to the death of Tire Nichols | CNN (3)

    Pictured above left are former officers Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills, Jr. and below left, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean.

    It is unclear to what extent these officials cared for Nichols and what assistance, if any, was provided.

    Davis said his assessment was that the paramedics "did not provide adequate care".

    "They started to show care and concern, but it lasted a long time after a few minutes, which was concerning for all of us as we saw a number of failures where individuals didn't take the care that we are responsible for."

    “During a period before emergency services arrive on the scene, Fire is on site. And they're there with Tire and the cops before the emergency services get there," Nichols's family lawyer Antonio Romanucci told CNN, adding there are "limitations" to how much he can say.

    When meeting with the police, the delegate said he did not know her personally. Of her impressions of them, she said they looked like other officers and were respectful when you saw them, but what she saw in the video was more of a "groupthink mentality" with no one stepping forward to intervene.

    Two employees of the Memphis Fire Departmentwho were part of Nichols' 'first patient care' were "removed from duty" pending the outcome of an internal investigation," Qwanesha Ward, the department's public information officer, told CNN's Nadia Romero.

    How Nichols' family found out about the violent encounter

    Memphis Police Department officers went to the home of RowVaughn Wells, Nichols's mother, between 8:00 and 9:00 pm. on Jan. 7 to tell her about Nichols's arrest, her mother told Lemon on Friday.

    Authorities told Wells that his son was arrested for DUI, pepper spray and harassment. Because of that, they said he would go to the hospital and then be taken to the police station for booking, she said.

    "They then asked me if he was on drugs or something because they said it was very difficult to put the handcuffs on him and he had a lot of energy, superhuman energy," she said. "What they described was not my son, so I was very confused."

    Authorities told her she couldn't go to the hospital, Wells said, and when asked where her son was, they said he was "close by" but didn't tell her exactly where.

    "Now that I'm really putting it together, I think they were trying to cover it up when they got to my door," she said.

    Around 4am ET, Wells said a doctor called to take her to the hospital to see her son.

    "The doctor proceeded to tell me that my son had a cardiac arrest and that his kidneys were failing," she said. "It doesn't seem consistent when someone is being teased or pepper sprayed," police told her.

    "When my husband and I got to the hospital and I saw my son, he was gone," Wells said. "They beat him to a pulp."

    Wells described the horrific injuries his son suffered upon seeing him in the hospital.

    “He had bruises all over his body. His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck burst from the swelling. They broke his neck. My son's nose looks like an S," she said. "They basically beat him to death. And when I saw that, I knew my son was gone, the end. Even if he had lived, he would have been a vegetable.”

    Wer war Tire Nichols?

    Nichols was the baby of his family, the youngest of four children, and heI loved being a fatherfor her son, her family said.

    He was a "good boy" who spent Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, his mother,RowVaughn Wells disse.

    “Does that sound like someone the police are saying did all these bad things?” Wells said. "No one is perfectly fine, but he came pretty close."

    Courtesy of Ben Crump and the Nichols Family Tire Nichols was a "nice kid" who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and sunsets, say his family

    Nichols moved to Memphis before the Covid-19 pandemic and was stuck there when things shut down, his mother said.

    When not working the second shift at FedEx, Nichols enjoyed taking pictures and skateboarding, which he has done since he was six.

    Nichols had Crohn's disease, a digestive condition, and only weighed 140 to 145 pounds despite his height of 6ft 3in, his mother said.

    What the police have said since the incident

    On January 18, the Department of Justice said that aCivil Rights Investigationswas opened on Nichols' death.

    In recognition of the continued efforts of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office "in coordination with the FBI's Memphis field office and the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has opened a civil rights investigation," the U.S. Attorney's US for the Western District of Tennessee told Kevin G. Ritz and declined to give further details.

    Memphis Police Chiefcondemned the actsthe employees involved.

    "I was outraged, it was incomprehensible to me, it was unscrupulous," Davis said. “I felt I had to do something, and fast. I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this in my career."

    Davis said the video showing the Tire Nichols beating was as bad, if not worse, than the 1991 video showing Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King, a driver whose brutal encounter with police sparked outrage after the footage was released. .

    “I was in law enforcement during theRodney Kingincident and it's very much geared towards the same type of behavior," she said. "I would say it's about the same, if not worse."

    "You'll see acts that defy humanity, you'll see a disregard for life, a duty of care we're all sworn to uphold, and a level of physical interaction beyond what's required in law enforcement," she said of the footage.

    "I'm sure, as I've said before, viewers will feel what the family felt, and if you don't, you're not a human being."

    Family members and lawyers saw footage of the incident

    CNN has audio snippets from the police scanneruntil Nichols was arrested. Portions of the audio are not audible, but you can hear a brief portion of the conversation between an officer and the dispatcher.

    A police officer is heard saying, "We've got a black man running" and giving instructions to "look over the license plate number and see what the address is", followed by what sounds like Nichols is in danger.

    It's unclear where this audio fits in the sequence of the incident or which officer is speaking.

    Family lawyers watched the video on Monday anddescribed it as "disgusting".Nichols was stabbed, pepper sprayed and tied up, Crump said, and he also compared it to the LAPD's beating of Rodney King.

    Crump described the video as "terrible", "pitiful", and "disgusting". He said Wells, Nichols' mother, was unable to watch the first minute of footage after hearing Nichols ask, "What did I do?" At the end of the footage, Nichols can be heard asking for his mother three times, told The Advocate.

    Nichols ran from the police because he was scared, according to Rodney Wells, his stepfather.

    "Our son fled in fear of his life," Rodney Wells said on Monday. "He didn't run because he was trying to get rid of drugs, guns, none of that. He ran away fearing for his life. And if you watch the video, you'll see why he feared for his life."

    Rodney Wells didn't want his wife to see the video, but lawyers urged her to see as much of it as possible.

    "She heard one word and had to leave the room," said Rodney Wells. "And that's when they originally pulled him out of the car. He said, 'What did I do?'"

    In Rodney Wells' own words, the video captures the following:

    "He said, 'What did I do? Why are you doing this to me? What did I do? and they started yanking him out of the car and trying to tackle him to the ground. And he got scared. So he was athletic enough to get out of the situation and run, and he was trying to run home because it was three blocks away of the house when they pulled him over," continued Wells.

    "And when I saw the policeman, you know, they've got this little stick, this metal thing they're taking out... I saw them pull it out and I started hitting my son with it. And I saw officers hitting him, I saw officers kicking him. One officer kicked him a couple of times like he was kicking a football," Wells told Lemon.

    "But the most telling thing about the video for me was the fact that maybe ten cops were there and nobody was trying to stop him, or even after they hit him and leaned against his car, nobody helped him. They were walking around smoking cigarettes like if everything was quiet and bragging about what had happened”, said the stepfather.

    “He sat there and then passed out. And a policeman walked up to him and said, "Sit down," while he was handcuffed. So he had to – they backed him up again and he fell again and they backed him up again but nobody helped,” he continued.

    "I saw some firefighters coming out of there and they just walked around and nobody showed him help and they should be trained in first aid. When the ambulance pulled up we couldn't see anything because the ambulance was blocking the camera," said Rodney Wells .

    Nichols familywant the cops charged with murder, the Romanucci family attorney told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday night.

    Video footage of the incident will be posted to YouTube in four parts, showing the first stop, the stop near Nichols' home and body camera footage of those at the scene, around 7pm. ET on Friday, Davis confirmed.

    When timing the launch, "we thought about schools, we thought about businesses, and we felt that by Friday afternoon if there were individuals [who] decided to peacefully protest, at least other people would have gone home, schools would be out, and." wouldn't be as upsetting as it would be if we posted it on... a Wednesday afternoon."

    "A lot of questions people have about what exactly happened will be answered once people watch the video," Mulroy said.said Laura Coates of CNNon Tuesday night, noting that he believes the city will release enough footage to show "the entire incident from start to finish."

    Correction: In an earlier version of this story, RowVaughn Wells' first name was misspelled.

    CNN's Eric Levenson, Nick Valencia, Christina Zdanowicz, Jamiel Lynch, Jaide Timm-Garcia, Travis Caldwell, Jason Hanna and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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