The US Attorney’s Office working on a federal investigation into the death of a Black man who died after being beaten by police has said that the government’s inquiry “may take some time”.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, US Attorney Kevin G Ritz said that he had met with family members of the victim Tyre Nichols, and that his office was working with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington to investigate the incident.
“Last week we announced that the United States had opened a federal civil rights investigation into the circumstances leading to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols,” Ritz said.
“Our federal investigation may take some time. These things often do. But we will be diligent and we will make decisions based on the facts and the law.”
Tyre Nichols’ parents shouldn’t have to endure this nightmare — their son should still be with them, enjoying life with his 4-yo son. Five @MEM_PoliceDept officers robbed his family and community by taking Tyre from them. Accountability and justice are the only way forward! pic.twitter.com/jWe3E8nM1S
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 24, 2023
Nichols died three days after being severely beaten by police officers during a traffic stop on January 7 in the state of Tennessee in the southern United States. Federal, state, and local authorities are investigating the death of the 29-year-old, which has reignited questions about police violence and accountability in the US.
Nichols’s family members and lawyers were allowed to view footage of his beating on Monday. While that footage has not been released to the public, lawyers said that the video showed a “savage” encounter.
“It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video,” said Antonio Romanucci, co-counsel for Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family.
All five Memphis police officers involved in the arrest were terminated after police officials conducted an internal investigation and concluded that they had violated numerous department policies, including excessive force and a failure to provide the victim with medical aid.
The officers, all of whom are Black, were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr and Justin Smith.
Haley had been previously accused of using excessive force, and was named as a defendant in a 2016 lawsuit by an incarcerated person alleging that Haley, then working as a corrections officer, had joined several others in beating him during a contraband check.
That suit was dismissed on procedural grounds in 2018, and Memphis police have declined to answer questions about Haley.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who attended to Nichols were also “relieved of [their] duty”, a spokesperson said on Tuesday, pending an investigation.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the release of footage of the encounter will be delayed, stating that it was necessary to give investigators time to conduct as many interviews as possible so that witness accounts are not biased by the footage.
That timeline could take as long as a week and has spurred criticism from activists who expected the footage to be made available to the public after the family viewed it on Monday.
“My heart went out to the family,” said Mulroy. “I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child, with the possible exception of losing a child under really violent, prolonged circumstances.”