Published on :
After the death in early January of an African American who was beaten by law enforcement after his arrest in Memphis, Tennessee, six police officers were charged with murder on Thursday. US President Joe Biden called for calm before the release of the video of the facts.
Five police officers were charged and jailed Thursday, January 26 for murder following the death in early January of an African-American, a few days after an “appalling” arrest in the southern United States, according to the authorities.
These police officers from Memphis, a large city in Tennessee, all African-Americans, are the subject of several charges, including murder, assault and kidnapping, prosecutor Steve Mulroy announced at a press conference. .
US President Joe Biden called on Thursday in a statement for a “prompt, complete and transparent investigation” into this tragedy.
On January 7, the police – since dismissed – wanted to arrest Tire Nichols, 29, for a traffic violation. As the officers approached, a “confrontation had taken place” and “the suspect had fled”, explained the police. Caught up, Tire Nichols was finally arrested but complained of having difficulty breathing and was hospitalized. He died three days later.
The details of this arrest are not yet clear: a video of the facts exists, but has so far only been shown to the relatives of the victim and their lawyers.
According to them, “the police beat him to the point that he was unrecognizable”. “It is a pure and simple beating, without interruption, of this young man for three minutes”, declared Me Antonio Romanucci.
During the press conference on Thursday, the authorities avoided describing precisely the course of events, referring to the images. But what happened was “inadmissible” and “criminal” and “should not have happened”, insisted David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, saying he was “shocked” and “disgusted” by what he saw. “In a word, it’s absolutely appalling.”
Lawyers for the victim’s family, including the famous Ben Crump – who had represented the family of George Floyd – welcomed the indictment of the police. This news “gives us hope as we continue to demand justice for Tyre,” they commented.
Thursday, referring to his meetings with those close to Tire Nichols, prosecutor Steve Mulroy painted the portrait of an “almost perfect son”. “A jovial and happy person, who loved skateboarding,” he said.
The five officers charged were fired last week. The internal police investigation had shown that they had used excessive force. Other officers are still under investigation.
The officers involved are “directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said Wednesday, saying it was “not just professional error, but of a lack of humanity”. “This act was heinous, irresponsible and inhumane.”
Video of the arrest will be released after 6 p.m. local time on Friday (midnight GMT Saturday). “I expect you will be outraged” seeing these images, admitted Cerelyn Davis. Deeming the organization of demonstrations also likely, the police chief called not to “incite violence or destruction”.
In his press release, Joe Biden said he joined the family of Tire Nichols in calling for the demonstrations to be “peaceful”. “Anger is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” he added.
The case finds a particular echo in a country still marked by the death of George Floyd, in May 2020, and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, against racism and police violence, which followed.
And the drama has reignited the debate on police violence in the country. “We cannot ignore the fact that deadly police interventions have affected black people more,” President Biden said.
The Democratic president is urging Congress to pass a police reform bill, passed in the House of Representatives in 2021 but which did not pass the Senate hurdle. Since the murder of George Floyd, the US Congress has been unable to pass any ambitious police reform in the United States, including a ban on chokeholds.
The president of the civil rights organization NAACP, Derrick Johnson, for his part called on elected members of Congress to watch the video of the arrest and then to act. “We can name all the victims of police brutality, but we can’t name a single law you passed to address the problem.”