Community reacts to murder charges of former officers involved in Tyre Nichols case

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 2:47 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Local politicians, attorneys, community leaders and more are reacting to five officers charged with murdering Tyre Nichols.

Those former MPD officers are: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmit Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. All five are charged with two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, second-degree murder, aggravated assault-act in concert and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.

The investigation is ongoing.

President Joe Biden released the following statement Thursday regarding the case:

Vice President Kamala Harris also released a statement:

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released a statement extending prayers to the Nichols family and expressing his approval of the city’s investigative process:

Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent the Nichols family, released a joint statement after the charges were released:

Wednesday night, before the indictments were made, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis issued a statement regarding the Nichols case and announced more police officers are still under investigation, aside from the five who were fired last week.

“Concurrent within that investigation, other MPD officers are still under investigation for department policy violations. Some infractions are less egregious than others,” she said.

Two Memphis Fire EMTs were also relieved of duty pending the results of another internal investigation.

“Our officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video,” Chief Davis said. “This is not a reflection of the good work that many Memphis police officers do every day. What comes next is our defining moment.”

Officials have said the footage of Nichols’ arrest will not be released publicly until after the internal investigation is complete.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch says he’s seen the footage and was sickened by the video.

NAACP Memphis Branch President Van Turner sat down with Action News 5 and shared his thoughts on the several moving pieces in the Nichols case.

“I think we have to use this as a moment to better ourselves, we have to use this as a moment to come together, we have to use this as a moment to not separate us from one another, but unite us and bring us together,” Tuner said. “We all want the best out of our law enforcement officers, we all want the best for the young men and women in our community, and there’s a way to have both and to do it in such a way that we will all be proud.”

Turner said the collective firing of five police officers is something he’s never seen in his career as a public servant.

“It’s just something again that we have to navigate through. The fact that Mr. Nichols called out for his mother, the fact that he had his mother’s name tattooed on his arm. the fact that he was non-violent, he was a skateboarder, I mean, how many gangsters do we know who skateboard? Let’s just be real here,” Turner said. “This was just a young man, 29 years old. We could be saying ‘Attorney Tyre Nichols’ five years from now, we could be saying ‘Dr. Nichols,’ we could be saying ‘Principal Nichols.’ He still had a future.”

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) released a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday, saying:

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton also released a statement, expressing heartbreak at the State House over the tragedy:

In an exclusive interview with Action News 5, Memphis Attorney Michael Working remarked on the swift action by the Memphis Police Department.

“I think this administration is really trying to be transparent,” Working said. “And that’s important. We’re dealing with people here. We’re dealing with a lot of suffering across the city. The fact that we have a police department that a lot of people don’t think reflects the values and culture of people, or has been oppressive, not just in this case, but in a lot, we need to be honest about what’s going on in the streets of Memphis.”

“We’ve got to put it all on the table, even if it’s ugly,” he continued.

Tennessee State Senator London Lamar also spoke with Action News 5, saying in part, “First and foremost, I want to give my heartfelt condolences to the Nichols family for what they’ve been through. I had the opportunity to tell the mother Monday at the press conference that my sincere prayers are with her to be a mother and grieve in front of the whole world.”

“But most importantly, what today showed us is that the justice system can work,” she continued. “No one is above the law. Everyone will be held accountable for the wrongdoings that they do to other individuals, and while we’re holding individuals accountable, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Senator Raumesh Akbari also sat down with Action News 5. She said that although she has not seen the video, she’s devastated for Nichols’ family.

“You have a family that’s grieving, but you also have a community that is struggling to heal as well,” Akbari said. “With the severity of this, I think the DA and all the investigative teams had to move quickly, and I’m happy that they did.”

“I think the most important thing is that you have charges, charges that will stick, and that these officers will be found guilty,” she continued. “I don’t want anything to impede the investigation. Now that they’ve released the indictment, the officers are in custody, we have time to kind of digest that, and then they’ll release the video tomorrow evening. Hopefully, the community understands that the best way to honor Tyre Nichols is to try to uphold his legacy.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a video statement, saying in part, “the actions of these officers were awful, and no one, including law enforcement, is above the law.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris issued the following statement, expressing the need to build a more just and humane system:

Memphis City Councilmen JB Smiley Jr. and Martavious Jones also shared their responses to the indictments with Action News 5 on Thursday.

“We look at where we need to go as a community,” Smiley said. “The very first thing we want to do is make sure we are holding the officers accountable but also charging them with the appropriate charges. I believe that the charges that the District Attorney’s Office brought were the most severe that could be possibly brought.”

On Tuesday, members of the public went to Memphis City Council seeking justice for those accountable.

“This is a community effort to bring justice to Mr. Nichols in this unfortunate incident. I’m pleased that the District Attorney has brought these charges, and now we just hope that justice will prevail. This is just the first step, we want to remind people of that,” Jones said.

Tennessee State Representative John Gillespie commended the Memphis Police Department for its swiftness in firing the five officers involved in Nichols’ death:

State Representative Antonio Parkinson issued a statement, asking for prayers for Tyre Nichols’ family:

State Representative Karen Camper spoke with Action News 5 Thursday, saying in part, “I do think that the citizens appreciate the swift nature in which the police chief responded, the swift nature in which the DA has responded, but also want to see this video.”

“People are hurt. They’re sad. Initially, people were in shock when they saw the images of the police officers who did this to Tyre. As a mother, it hurts me, too, because it could have been my son,” she continued.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Matt Perry called Nichols’ death a “heinous incident” in a statement released Thursday night:

Nichols’ funeral will take place at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on February 1 at 10:30 a.m.

Church officials say Reverend Al Sharpton will be on hand to deliver a eulogy.

When asked Thursday what he wants the world to see and hear about this case, Sharpton replied, “I want them to see that there is a continuing feeling that people who put on a uniform and take an oath to protect can themselves become criminal.”

“This was a viscous, unprovoked, and unjustifiable murder, and to see them prosecuted is appropriate. I give the police chief credit, she even fired them before they were prosecuted, something that in all my years of dealing with police cases, I’ve actually not seen,” he continued.

Rev. Sharpton also commented on MPD’s plea for peace after the video is released:

“What is disturbing to me is we keep hearing people talk about, ‘I’m glad they’re charged, and hopefully there won’t be a riot,’ there already was a riot! The riot the policemen did, killing Nichols,” Sharpton said. “Let’s not act like there hasn’t already been violence. This young man was killed. So, rather than forecast what violence happens when the tape comes out, if there hadn’t been violence, we wouldn’t be having a funeral next Wednesday.”

Action News 5 is continuing to reach out to community leaders for their reaction to the arrests.

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