President Joe Biden, politicians react after MPD officer indictments in Tyre Nichols case
The death of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 10, three days after being stopped by Memphis Police in an incident that is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, has led to the firing, arrests and indictments of five Memphis Police Officers.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis said in a YouTube video released late Wednesday night that more officers are under investigation as well, though she did not specify how many. The FBI is also conducting an investigation into potential civil rights violations.
Five Memphis Police offers were fired for their involvement in the traffic stop just under a week ago. All five have been booked at the Shelby County Jail and indicted.
As of Thursday afternoon, "Tyre Nichols," trended on Twitter, sitting at number three under the trending tab.
Family and friends of Nichols, attorneys, politicians and the nation all reacted to the indictments. Here are some of the reactions:
Politicians and attorneys
President Joe Biden in a written statement: "Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death. As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice. Public trust is the foundation of public safety and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all. We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people. To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect. That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk. When they didn’t, I signed an executive order that included stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level. Today, we all must re-commit ourselves to the critical work that must be done to advance meaningful reforms."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in a written statement on Twitter: "Cruel, criminal abuse of power will not be tolerated in the state of Tennessee. These individuals do not represent the honorable men & women of law enforcement, & they must be brought to justice for this tragic loss of life. The City of Memphis & the Memphis Police Department need to take a hard look at the misconduct & failure that has occurred within this unit. I discussed this with Mayor Strickland & am pleased the city if pursuing an external, impartial investigation. Maria and I are praying for Tyre Nichols' family, and we ask that God bring peace, healing and justice to the Memphis community in these difficult days."
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in a video statement: "Since learning of this tragic event, transparency and swift, methodical action have been our top priorities because the family of Mr. Nichols and our citizens deserve nothing else. The actions of these officers were awful. And no one, including law enforcement, is above the law. I assure you, we will do everything we can to keep this type of heinous act from happening again. In this case, I want to thank Chief Davis and her team for moving quickly with the administrative procedure resulting in termination. And, District Attorney Mulroy for taking deliberate actions in bringing these indictments forward. We have worked to get a resolution to these matters in record time because we take them extremely seriously. As we have said all along, we wanted to ensure the proper legal steps were followed and that the family of Mr. Nichols had an opportunity to view the video footage privately before we released it to the public. In light of those matters occurring, we will be releasing the video to the public sometime Friday, tomorrow, after 6 p.m. It is clear that these officers violated the departments policies and training . But we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again. So we are initiating an outside, independent review of the training, policies and operations of our specialized units. Lastly, I am sad and angry for the family of Tyre Nichols. I am also angry for the many good men and women of the Memphis Police Department who devote their lives to serving our citizens. We must all work to regain the publics trust and work together to heal the wounds these events have caused."
Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, the attorneys for the Nichols' family, in a written statement: "The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre. This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop. This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death. Tyre’s loved ones’ lives were forever changed when he was beaten to death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen spoke on the House floor: “Right now, much of the national media is looking at Memphis as there was an awful killing of a 29-year-old African American man by five police officers within the last few weeks. The five police officers have been fired by the Police Department for violating their oaths…It could be a situation where people want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest actions of the Police Department, and people should. But they should be peaceful and calm. We have a new D.A. We have a new U.S. Attorney. And we have a new Police Director. They are the right people at the right time to bring about reform and to deal with this case to see that justice is rendered. I grieve for the life of Tyre Nichols, whose life should not have been extinguished. He was an outstanding young man and it’s extremely sad that he was killed. I pray for my city.”
Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Raumesh Akbari in a written statement: “While I applaud the swift action of the district attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Memphis Police Department, there is no justice for Tyre Nichols today. Justice would be Tyre living to see his next birthday. Justice is people in this community having trust that our police officers will first police themselves. No one should fear for their life during a simple traffic stop or be afraid to even engage with our officers. So instead, today we begin the long act of healing our hurting community, Tyre’s mother and family, and ourselves. We cannot move forward together unless we are willing to do the work to hold our police department to the highest ethical standards and uproot any existence or acceptance of police brutality. This is our call to action and we must be vigilant.”
Sen. London Lamar, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, in a written statement: “Like many of us, I feel traumatized by Tyre Nichols’ death and I am disturbed by the actions of the officers who were involved. While today we send our heartfelt condolences to the Nichols family, tomorrow we work toward achieving continuous accountability for law enforcement. This may be the most egregious act of police brutality in our nation’s history. It shows exactly how much work we have to do to build trust between our people and the officers who pledge to serve and protect our community. Accountability for the officers involved in Tyre’s death is the first step. The next step is for law enforcement, state and federal officials, and local leaders to investigate why this happened. We have to fix the root causes of police brutality and then do the work to make sure it never happens again.”
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson in a texted statement: "While seeing our justice system at work with the charging of the five officers involved in the death of #TyreNichols, we must continue to keep the family of Tyre Nichols lifted in prayer. These are the beginning stages of what will be a long and arduous journey for them and for our city. There is no good that can come out of this tragic situation. Unless there is a way to bring Tyre back, justice is limited to what it is supposed to do an that is find, try and convict those responsible for taking the life of Tyre."
Former County Commissioner Tami Sawyer in a Twitter thread: "#TyreNichols is not a singular occurrence in Memphis. Please don’t go back to business as usual just because the officers were charged. We still pay Connor Schilling’s pension even though he murdered Darrius Stewart. MPD has resisted meaningful reform and will continue to do so. [New tweet] MPD has resisted meaningful reform and will continue to do so unless we collectively demand it. They over recruit and under train. They’re putting new officers on the street with the swiftness of an Amazon or FedEx and training as worthwhile as a bitcoin at 7-11. [New tweet] These are the first officers ever charged in Memphis in recent memory for abuse or death and if Tyre hadn’t died and just been hurt they probably would have gotten away with it. Like they did with Martavius Banks. Because he lived, they walked and out HIM in jail when he healed."
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris in a Twitter post: "I grieve with the family of Tyre Nichols. This family lost their beloved son too soon. As a community, I know we can confront prejudice and work together to build a more just an humane system. While the investigation into Mr. Nichols' death continues, I support the release of the video as soon as possible."
U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Memphis in a written statement: "The death of Tyre Nichols is an unfathomable tragedy. Roberta and I will continue to keep Mr. Nichols’s family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. As a former United States Attorney, I know that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good people who put their lives on the line to protect us every day. The outrageous and egregious actions by officers on January 7th, 2023, that resulted in Mr. Nichols’s death should not be a reflection on our law enforcement officers in Memphis or West Tennessee. The Memphis Police Department was correct by swiftly terminating the officers involved. Police brutality has no place in our community or in any community. As we continue to mourn, I ask that our community remain peaceful and patient as our system of justice prosecutes and continues to investigate."
Tennessee state Rep. John Gillespie, R-Memphis in a written statement: "Thank you to Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis and District Attorney Steve Mulroy for taking the time to ensure justice is served in the Tyre Nichols murder. This was a tragedy that shouldn’t have occurred and it cost a young man his life. Chief Davis and DA Mulroy understood that getting things right and ensuring justice is served is much more important than doing things in a rush. We are blessed to live in a country that protects the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. I encourage those who wish to have their voices heard to do so in a manner that is peaceful and honors the member of Tyre Nichols. Together our community can heal and move forward.”
Nashville Mayor John Cooper in a written statement said: “The brutality and inhumane violence against Tyre Nichols is shocking and deeply upsetting. Our hearts and prayers are with his mother, Ravaughn, and his entire family as they mourn this unnecessary loss of life. When individuals who swear to protect their fellow citizens abuse that privilege, they do not deserve to be called police officers and they dishonor the brave officers doing the right thing for their neighbors every day. I applaud Memphis leaders for taking steps to deliver justice to the people responsible for this vicious act.”
Shelby County Commission Chairman Mickell Lowery in a written statement said: “I stand with everyone in Shelby County and around the country that is heartbroken over the murder of Tyre Nichols. I am thankful for the swift action to fire and prosecute the former officers responsible for his death.” I also recognize and understand there will be those that are angered by the video as it angered me as well. To those citizens, I implore you as Tyre’s mother has already stated, ‘to let your voice be heard but in a peaceful manner.’"
2023 Memphis Mayoral Race Candidates
Businessman J.W. Gibson in a written statement: "The former police officers responsible for the senseless and fatal beating of Tyre Nichols face appropriate criminal charges, including second degree murder. I appreciate and commend Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for moving swiftly and decisively to terminate those officers. I passionately support the continued investigation and work of the Memphis Police Department, investigators and prosecutors to uncover all the evidence and other facts pertinent to this case. As a lifelong Memphian, I know that the actions of those few definitely do not reflect the dedication, heart or humanity of the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the Memphis Police Department. As these men await their days in court, we must come together as a community. We will grieve with and support Tyre's family, as well as find it within ourselves to honor Tyre's memory by peacefully seeking necessary change and justice."
Memphis-Shelby County School Board member Michelle McKissack in a written statement: "As a mother to three young adult sons and a daughter, it breaks my heart to imagine the gross abuse of power that Tyre Nichols experienced and the pain brought to his family by the hands of the very people charged to protect our community. In the last 24 hours, everyone from Police Director CJ Davis to United States President Joe Biden has expressed dismay with regard to the video evidence that current Mayor Jim Strickland will release after 6:00 PM today. My heart is heavy as our entire nation grieves with Memphians. The truth is that this “Scorpion Unit” used tactics that City of Memphis leaders now disavow. Police Director CJ Davis has announced that she’s investigating the Scorpion Unit and other units created under her leadership. I applaud her for this first step, and am hopeful we will continue to see accountability in this case. City leaders have already announced other infractions they’ve discovered in the days since the 29-year-old Mr. Nichols was arrested by five police officers who are now facing kidnapping and murder charges. My question is a simple one: where was the Memphis Police Department oversight before Mr. Nichols lost his life? It is imperative that the City of Memphis immediately disband the Scorpion Unit and any other unit that uses gang-like tactics to violate the personal safety of residents in our community. I believe in community policing. I believe residents should know, trust, and feel a sense of connection with the police officers who serve in their neighborhoods. Nationally, the best demonstrations of policing follow this model. Community policing is not what the Scorpion Unit provided. Today, Memphians feel a lot less safe and it’s time to let the Scorpion Unit go."
Tennessee House Minority Leader Karen Camper in a written statement sent on behalf of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus: “I am asking all Memphians to come together to console the Nichols family through prayer to heal their personal pain; and to also pray for our city and those that are also seeking justice.”
NAACP Memphis Chapter President Van Turner during a press conference Friday said: "This (traffic stop) was in an area that I represented as a county commissioner. And part of what we did on the commission was put Skycop cameras up in that community to help combat crime. Little did we know, we would be combating this type of criminal behavior as well...Y'all pray for this family. Y'all pray for our city. Tonight will be one of the toughest nights that we've ever experienced in this city. But we will get through it."
Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, senior pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and leader of the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis, in a written statement: "Today’s indictment against five Memphis police officers involved in the beating death of Tyre Nichols is also an indictment against the systemic injustice and abuse of power still rampant throughout the United States criminal justice system. Tragically, Tyre is now its face. But it has thousands of faces in thousands of communities across this country. The color of the officers who’ve been indicted is beside the point. They must be held accountable as must any person and any system that would abuse marginalized people. We must demand policy changes nationwide that finally pull systemic injustice out by the roots. We will start today in Memphis. Today can mark the beginning of the Second Civil Rights Movement: beyond individual equality to systemic equality. We demand a system that manifests justice for all, not the privileged few. In Tyre’s name, systemic justice is what we must demand and fight for – each day going forward until we overcome."
Entertainers, Activists, Activist Organizations & Athletes
Actress and activist Lisa Raye in a Facebook post on an article on the release of the footage: " Can't believe this happened! We'll see the TRUTH soon!"
Civil rights activist Shaun King in a Facebook post: "2 things that are all true at the same time. 1. All 5 of these men deserved to be fired and charged with the murder of Tyre Nichols. What they did, you will soon see, is about as awful as anything you could ever see. It’s that horrible. They beat a man to death. And refused to provide any aid whatsoever when they knew what they did to him. 2. They were fired and charged at lightning speed not just because they are Black, but because the the City of Memphis literally just voted in a brand new DA who promised he would hold police accountable and the city council just chose a new police chief who pledged the same thing when she was hired. It’s super easy to conclude that they were ONLY fired and charged so quickly because they were Black. It might play a role, but the bigger role is the new police chief and DA."
Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway when asked after Thursday's game to speak on what is happening in the city of Memphis: “Well, for my city, you know, because this is where I’m from, I’m always about love. I’m always trying to do my part to ensure that we’re better than what we were. You know, wherever I am in whatever situation, that it’s better. We’re well aware of how our city needs to heal and grow. I don’t want to speak out of turn about anything, but my heart is always big for the city, because I know where we want to go. And I want to be a part of being the blessing and the positivity in moving forward. So, for me, that’s just where I am with the city. Everyone knows me, I love this city. I came back home to make a difference and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Attorney, writer, political commentator and The Nation justice correspondent Elie Mystal in a Twitter thread: "This Memphis video of the lynching of Tyre Nichols must be awful. Basically, everybody who has seen it is like 'Please don't riot when you see this like you probably should.' I've never seen a reaction like that. [New Tweet] I feel like people who are *surprised* that the cops who did this are black are about to learn a part of 'the Talk' that my parents at least always emphasized: The race of a cop is 'cop.' *Never* be under the illusion that a Black cop is less likely to brutalize you or kill you. [New Tweet] My interaction with Black cops have always been as potentially fraught as my interaction with white ones. At no point does "help a brother out" work. Because if they were really trying to 'help' me, they wouldn't have stopped me in the first place."
The Memphis Grizzlies in a tweet: "We are distraught to find ourselves dealing with a needless loss of life due to police brutality, and this time it was one of Memphis' own. We're thinking of the Nichols family and friends, and share the pain being felt throughout our community. So, let's support each other and respect how our fellow Memphians are coping. We have faith in this city and our power to heal. To the Nichols family and friends, we offer our deepest sympathies and condolences for your loss." The Atlanta Hawks retweeted this with the note "We stand with Memphis."
Memphis Grizzlies' player Jaren Jackson Jr in a tweet: "To the Nichols Family, my teammates and I are and have been paying attention. We are with you. To Memphis, we are hurting, too. Peaceful protest, supporting the family, pushing for accountability are what's needed in this moment."
ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Kathy Sinback in a written statement said: “Tyre Nichols should be alive today. We join with the family, the Memphis community, and the nation in mourning Tyre Nichols’ senseless loss and demanding justice. No one deserves the kind of abuse that Mr. Nichols suffered, yet such trauma falls disproportionately and repeatedly on communities of color. Our current system of policing does not value all lives equally. In Tennessee, Black people account for 17 percent of the population, but over 47 percent of the people killed by police. It's past time to end the disparate, ineffective and violent policing of communities of color, and the constant surveillance, targeting and harassment of Black and Brown people. We must stop relying on police to respond to issues related to poverty and disinvestment, which leads to more frequent, unnecessary and aggressive actions by law enforcement toward community members. It's time for us to reimagine the role of police to be far narrower, while investing in supportive, community-based solutions for public safety independent of the criminal legal system. We are committed to following the lead of our community partners in Memphis fighting for a new approach to policing and the criminal legal system, in calling for accountability for Mr. Nichols’ death; transparency in reporting on civilian complaints and law enforcement malfeasance; collection and reporting of data on traffic stops; and a full and public review of the policies, protocols, training and complaints against the SCORPION unit. Everyone deserves to live a life free from harmful policing and violence, regardless of where we live, how we look, or who we are. We will keep fighting for a Memphis that invests in non-punitive, non-carceral approaches to the community and centers the protection of Black lives, a Memphis where what happened to Tyre Nichols never happens again.”
Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director and director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality in a written statement said: We express our profound grief for Tyre Nichols’ family and all those who love him. A man lost his life, a family lost a beloved son and father, and a community lost a friend to police violence. Yet again, we are witnessing a horrific abusive act committed by members of an institution that purports to act in our name and to keep us safe. The Black community again is faced with burying one of our own at the hands of police. There must be accountability for this unspeakable act and we must continue fighting for a society in which police violence is rare instead of rampant. But none of this will bring Tyre Nichols back to his loved ones. Tyre Nichols’ killing underscores the urgent need to change the role and practices of police in our society. We must all work towards transformational change that centers care and safety – and that includes being safe from police violence. Through our grief, we will continue this struggle.”
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted a statement by TBI Director David Rausch: "First— and most importantly— on behalf of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols. We can't imagine the pain you're experiencing, but let me reaffirm: We are here to pursue truth and justice, realizing that we should not be here. Simply put, this shouldn't have happened.I've been in policing for more than 30 years. I've devoted my life to this profession and I'm grieved— and frankly, I'm sickened— by what we've learned through our extensive investigation. I've seen the video, and you will, too. In a word, it's appalling. Let me be clear: What happened here does not, at all, reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was a crime. The depth and breadth of the charges announced today speaks to the deliberate and thorough investigation this case has received. And our work is not finished. We continue to purse every lead. Justice demands it. And our agency exists so 'that guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer.' To that end, I want to publicly thank our agents, forensic scientists, support staff, and our entire tea— across the state— who worked diligently to expedite this case. We've worked as hard as we could— and as quickly as we could— to provide a thorough, independent, and unbiased investigative record to allow DA Mulroy to make the most informed decision he could regarding charges. I also want to thank the Memphis Police Department and city leaders for their cooperation in this case, which— I want to stress— remains ongoing at this time."
Nashville Metro Police Chief John Drake in a written statement: “I am repulsed by the horrendous beating of Tyre Nichols by the now charged former members of the Memphis Police Department. This should not happen anywhere, ever, and I condemn their actions in the strongest possible way. It is unconscionable to me that theindividuals who kicked, punched, and beat Mr. Nichols could have such a disregard for another human being. They must be held accountable. I credit Chief Davis in Memphis for taking swift action to fire them. I also credit Director Rausch and his team at the TBI for the expedited and independent investigation that led to the indictment of the five. This week I asked the men and women of the MNPD to remember who WE are in this police department. Now, more than ever, the principles of respect, compassion, organizational excellence, community engagement and precision policing must guide us in all that we do every day.”
Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Colonel Christopher Mason in a written statement on Twitter: "The Massachusetts State Police are dedicated to the values of accountability, integrity, and protection of Constitutional rights, and as such we unequivocally condemn the actions of the the five former Memphis Police officers involved in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols earlier this month. The brutality alleged in these indictments, and supported by the evidence described by Tennessee authorities, represents clear criminality and an utter breach of the public trust.From a professional viewpoint, the actions of the defendants are an offense to every police officer who embraces their calling for what it should be— a mission to serve and protect with courage and compassion. Those who killed Mr. Nichols are the antithesis of those values. Personally, I am as troubled by what was done to Mr. Nichols as I have ever been by any act of violence to which I responded over three decades as a law enforcement officer. We understand that members of the public may wish to exercise their rights of expression in response to this incident. We urge anyone who does so to act peacefully and with respect for the law and their fellow citizens. In the event that there are demonstrations, the State Police will protect the safety, property, and rights of all demonstrators and the public at large alike. We stand with all who lawfully and peacefully express condemnation of the officers' actions and compassion for the Nichols family."
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Tyre Nichols: President Biden, Steve Cohen on officers' indictments