- Tyre Nichols died after being brutally beaten by five Memphis police officers, city officials have said.
- The five police officers involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder.
- Here is a timeline of events as they unfolded.
Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died three days after he was stopped at a traffic stop and beaten by Memphis police officers.
The Memphis Police Department released video footage of the arrest on Friday, showing a violent encounter between multiple officers and Nichols on the evening of January 7. The city braced for civil unrest ahead of the footage’s release.
Five officers have been charged with Nichols’ murder, and have since been released from jail on bond.
Here’s a timeline of the events and what we know so far:
January 7, around 8:30 p.m: Nichols is stopped, arrested, and beaten
Memphis police officers stopped Nichols for “reckless driving” near the intersection between Raines Road and Ross Road, according to the department.
A confrontation occurred as officers approached his vehicle and Nichols ran away, police said.
Video footage of the incident showed Nichols being pulled out of his vehicle and thrown on the ground. One officer can be heard saying, “I’m gonna tase your ass.” After a struggle, Nichols can be seen running away.
In the second confrontation, bodycam footage showed how multiple officers beat Nichols. One officer took Nichols to the ground while another kneed him in the torso. Another officer clubbed Nichols.
During the violent encounter, Nichols can be heard crying, “mom,” several times. A total of five officers would surround Nichols and proceed to beat him.
Officers soon restrained Nichols as they waited for paramedics to arrive.
Nichols said he was experiencing shortness of breath, and an ambulance was called, with Nichols brought to a hospital in “critical condition,” according to the police statement.
January 10: Nichols dies
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that Nichols had “succumbed to his injuries.” It gave no official cause of death.
January 15: Police announce first investigations
The Memphis Police Department announced it was starting its own administrative investigation and said that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office were also starting an independent investigation into the use of force by Memphis police officers.
January 18: DOJ and FBI announce another investigation
Kevin G. Ritz, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the United States Attorney’s Office, working with the FBI and Department of Justice, opened a civil rights investigation.
January 20: Memphis Police says five officers fired
Memphis police said in a statement that five officers were fired and that its investigation found the five men “violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
It named the officers as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith.
January 23: Attorneys say the beating lasted three minutes, with bodycam footage showing Nichols being used as a “human pinata”
After Nichols’ family and their lawyers viewed the body cam footage from his arrest, attorney Antonio Romanucci said that officers beat Nichols for three minutes.
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, said that “no father, mother should have to witness what I saw today.”
Wells added that the footage showed Nichols repeatedly calling out for his mother, according to The Washington Post.
Romanucci also said that Nichols was “defenseless the entire time.”
“He was a human pinata for those police officers,” he said. “It was unadulterated, unabashed, non-stop beating of this young boy for three minutes.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said the footage would be made public at an “appropriate time,” when it would not interfere with investigations.
Jan. 24: Family autopsy shows he suffered “extensive bleeding”
Family attorneys Crump and Romanucci told Insider that their legal team had conducted an independent autopsy of Nichols’ body.
“We can state that preliminary findings indicate Tyre suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating and that his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023,” they said.
January 25: Police chief calls the incident “heinous, reckless, and inhumane”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis condemned the incident while pledging that her department would cooperate with all investigations.
She said that she expects the release of the bodycam footage to spark outrage and protests.
“This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane, and in the vein of transparency when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves,” she said in a statement released late on Wednesday.
“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels, I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police offers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”
January 26: Fired Memphis police officers charged with murder
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced the five officers would be charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct, and official oppression.
All five were booked into jail, then quickly released after posting bond, according to Fox13Memphis.
January 26: Biden says Nichols’ death shows the justice system needs work
President Joe Biden posted a message on Twitter saying he and First Lady Jill Biden “extend our hearts to the family of Tyre Nichols – they deserve a swift, full, and transparent investigation.”
“Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our justice system lives up to the promise of fairness and dignity for all,” Biden said.
January 27: Police say they can’t substantiate the reckless driving claim
Davis, the police chief, told CNN her department has not been able to substantiate allegations from the five officers that Nichols was driving recklessly, which was the purported cause of the traffic stop.
Davis said investigators have pored over cameras at the scene of the traffic stop, as well as officers’ body-worn cameras, and haven’t found anything proving reckless driving.
“We’ve taken a pretty extensive look to determine what the probable cause was, and we have not been able to substantiate that,” Davis said. “It doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen, but there’s no proof.”
January 27: US cities brace for protests ahead of footage release
Memphis and other major cities across the US braced for protests ahead of the scheduled release of the footage on Friday evening.
Authorities in New York City; Washington, DC; San Francisco; and Atlanta all confirmed they had been anticipating protests and preparing their police departments.
At a press conference on Friday, members of Nichols’ family urged protesters to remain peaceful. Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told reporters he was “very satisfied” with the swift consequences for the five officers involved, which included second-degree murder charges.
“More importantly, we want peace, we do not want an uproar,” he said.
January 27: Memphis officials announce an investigation into the SCORPION unit the 5 officers were serving on
Police Chief Cerelyn Davis announced a review of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit, which was first launched in late 2021. All five officers involved in Nichols’ beating were assigned to the unit.
The SCORPION unit is a specialized force comprising roughly 50 officers patrolling known hotspots for crime throughout the city, often focusing on seizing weapons and investigating gangs. In its first three months, the unit made over 300 arrests and seized 95 weapons, according to local NBC affiliate WMC.
Attorneys representing Nichols’ family criticized the SCORPION unit on Friday, calling for its dissolution. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he has since learned of several excessive force allegations against SCORPION Unit officers, including a man who said one of the officers threatened him at gunpoint just days before the Nichols beating.
“We are asking chief Davis to disband the SCORPION Unit, effective immediately,” Nichols family attorney Antonio Romanucci said Friday. “The intent of the SCORPION Unit has now been corrupted. It cannot be brought back to center with any sense of morality and dignity.”
January 27: Memphis officials release footage of Nichols’ beating, and protests began
At 6 p.m., the city released the highly anticipated body camera videos of Nichols’ beating.
Nichols, who at times could be heard calling out for his mother as police swear at him. They continuously punched and kicked him until he was unresponsive.
The violent footage, from police body cameras and stationary cameras, was released on the department’s Vimeo page and was met with immediate civil unrest in Memphis and other cities.
In Memphis, the protest organizers had spoken with the Nichols’ family and met their demands for a peaceful night in the city.
Kicking off at 6 p.m., without pausing to watch the videos, the group of dozens marched through the city, chanting and calling for reform.
They blocked traffic on I-55 for several hours before returning to Martyrs Park to end the evening around 9:30 p.m.
January 28: Memphis police announce they will deactivate the SCORPION Unit
The Memphis Police Department released a statement announcing a permanent end to the SCORPION Unit, noting that all officers assigned to the unit “agree unreservedly” with the decision.
“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement. “While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”
Protesters in Memphis cheered at the news Saturday afternoon, and called for other specialized units within the department to be deactivated as well.