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The death of Tyre Nichols

The death of Tyre Nichols


A Black man has become yet another victim of police violence in the US. Why does this keep happening?

Tyre Nichols: “You don’t do that, ok?”

Police officer: “Get on the f****** ground…”

Tyre Nichols arrest video

It is by now, a depressingly familiar story.

“You guys are really doing a lot right now… Stop… I’m just trying to go home.”

Tyre Nichols arrest video

An unarmed Black man is arrested by police in the United States and ends up dead.

“We know from bodycam footage that he was being pepper sprayed and hit by officers while he was crying out for his mother.”

CBS News

On 7 January, 29-year-old Tyre Nichols… a FedEx worker and passionate skateboarder from California… was pulled over after an alleged traffic violation in Memphis, Tennessee.

Officers held him down and shouted at him, ignoring his pleas that he hadn’t done anything wrong. 

He got up and ran away, but was soon caught.

He was pepper sprayed, kicked, punched and hit with a baton a hundred yards from his mother’s home. 

Three days later he died in hospital from extensive bleeding.

A four-year-old child left without a father. 

A mother without her son.

“I was telling someone that I had this really bad pain in my stomach earlier, not knowing what had happened. But once I found out what happened, that was my son’s pain that I was feeling. And I didn’t even know.”

Tyre Nichols’ mother in press conference

The five police officers involved in the beating were part of a street crimes unit called Scorpion. 

They’re no longer in their jobs and the unit has been disbanded.

“Five officers from the Memphis Police Department, who are also Black, were fired after an internal investigation. All five of them are now facing charges of second degree murder.”


Three fire department workers have also been sacked for failing to give Tyre Nichols proper medical attention when they arrived on the scene. One of them didn’t even leave their vehicle.

So what does the death of another Black man at the hands of officers tell us about American policing?

Tyre Nichols’ death shows us, primarily, how little has changed since George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in 2020.

“A judge in the US city of Minneapolis has sentenced the former police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years in jail for the murder of George Floyd.”

BBC News

After George Floyd died, the US vice president Kamala Harris, who was a senator at the time, helped write a bill called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

It’s an attempt to legislate against excessive force and racial bias, and would go some way to addressing the anger many Americans feel towards the police.

But disagreements between Democrats and Republicans have left the bill languishing in the US Congress for a year and a half.

Meanwhile, US law enforcement is killing more than a thousand people every year.

In 2022, 11 per cent were cases in which no offence was alleged, 9 per cent were mental health or welfare checks, and 8 per cent involved… like Tyre Nichols’ case… alleged traffic violations.

Interviewer: “If I can I ask you to go back to the first time you saw that video, if you can describe [it] in one word, what was it like?”

Memphis police chief: “Umm, horrific. Alarming. Disappointing. Sad.”

Interviewer: “Did you have a visceral reaction? When you were watching this, were you thinking how can your officers do this?”

Memphis police chief: “Yeah.”


Tyre Nichols’ death also shows how willing the police are to protect themselves.

As a former sheriff wrote in the Atlantic: “The image of the noble hero, holding the line between good and evil, forms the very foundation of police group identity, intensifying the ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

The initial report into the incident said that Tyre Nichols started to fight officers, which isn’t backed up by any of the video footage, and that he tried to grab a policeman’s gun, which also doesn’t appear anywhere in the video. The report failed to mention that Tyre Nichols was kicked and punched by police.

The aftermath of his death also suggests that some police officers are afforded special protection.

The five who now face murder charges are all Black. But there was a sixth officer involved in the arrest of Tyre Nichols: Preston Hemphill, who is white. He has been relieved of duties but has had no charges filed against him. 

He wasn’t at the scene when Tyre Nichols was beaten, but he is shown firing the taser at him earlier in the video footage. 

Memphis police waited weeks to reveal his identity, raising the question: why? 

“Let our memory of Tyre shine a light on the path toward peace and justice.”

Kamala Harris, Tyre Nichols’ funeral

On Wednesday, Tyre Nichols was buried in Memphis. 

If he had died in ordinary circumstances, Kamala Harris and the civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton wouldn’t have been at his funeral.

“He knew if he could just get [his] mother that they would quit beating him and quit stomping on him. All he wanted to do was get home.”

Rev Al Sharpton, Tyre Nichols’ funeral

But Tyre Nichols is another victim of police violence and his death shows us how little has changed since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Two men who were killed whilst crying out for their mothers.

This episode was written and mixed by Xavier Greenwood.