‘Shocked and disgusted’ | Knoxville police chief, leaders release statements on Tyre Nichols, ask for peaceful protests

Knoxville’s Chief of Police Paul Noel, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Gov. Bill Lee released statements on the death of Tyre Nichols Friday.
KPD Chief Noel calls for peace if protests take place in Knoxville related to Tyre Nichols’ death in Memphis
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 9:31 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2023 at 9:34 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel released a statement on the death of Memphis man Tyre Nichols Friday.

Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, days after a confrontation with five Memphis police officers put him in the hospital. While details of the event have not been made available to the public, officials confirmed that Nichols was pulled over for alleged reckless driving on Jan. 7.

The five former officers were fired and each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Previous Coverage: Tyre Nichols: 5 ex-MPD officers charged with second-degree murder

Noel’s statement emphasized his reaction to the news of the death and commended Memphis Chief C.J. Davis on her action following Nichols’ death.

I am shocked and disgusted by the senseless murder of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five now charged Memphis Police Department officers. Based on what I know, the actions of the involved officers were reprehensible, and they should be held accountable to the highest possible extent of the law. Their actions represent a grievous disregard for basic human dignity. And unfortunately, they also undermine all of the positive work the men and women of law enforcement do on a daily basis all across the country.

I applaud Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis and her leadership team for acting swiftly and decisively by firing the officers involved in the heinous act, and for the grace with which she has carried herself throughout this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Tyre Nichols, the Memphis community, and our colleagues with the Memphis Police Department.

I have encouraged our officers and employees to use this moment as one to reflect on how we carry ourselves and interact with all members of our community each and every day. We must hold ourselves accountable to one another and the community, and strive to treat every person we encounter with the utmost dignity and respect.

Chief Paul Noel

Additionally, Noel said he had sent a note to KPD personnel, including sworn officers.

“I hope that we collectively will use this moment to take a hard look at ourselves and how we interact with one another and the community,” his note said. “One of those five officers could have and should have stepped back and stopped this situation from escalating to the point that it did.”

He continued to address the possibility of public outcry after the video is released.

“One the video from Tyre Nichols’ death is released, we expect that there will be a deeply emotional public reaction and intense dialogue about the role of law enforcement in our country,” he said.

In addition to releasing a statement on the act itself and sending the note, Noel also asked possible protestors in the Knoxville area to stay peaceful.

The Knoxville Police Department is monitoring the situation locally and prepared to respond in an appropriate manner in the event that any large-scale public demonstrations or protests arise as a result of Tyre Nichols death. The KPD supports and will protect the fundamental right of the men and women of this community to peacefully assemble. The KPD will also not tolerate property damage or any other actions that compromise or threaten the safety of others. If any community members choose to assemble, they are asked to do so peacefully and respectfully.

Chief Paul Noel

Wednesday, the Knoxville City Council voted to approve the creation of a new position at the Knoxville Police Department: Deputy Director of Professional Standards. That new position will focus on police practices and reviewing policy.

Previous Coverage: New accountability position created at Knoxville Police Department

The change is the latest Noel has made as far as accountability in the department. He also helped establish the Use of Force Review Board, which will review serious instances of use of force from a training perspective. Also, Noel signed up the department for the Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) Project, aimed at establishing specific training on accountability among officers.

Previous Coverage: Knoxville Police Chief recaps first 7 months on the job, outlines goals for 2023

The changes were some of the first that Noel instituted after joining the force here in Knoxville. These changes came in 2022, about a year after several KPD officers were involved in the death of Anthony Thompson Jr., an Austin-East Magnet High School Student.

Thompson was killed in an officer-involved shooting after he brought a gun to the school. That incident created waves here in Knoxville, sparking response from the community.

Previous Coverage: Multiple gunshot victims including KPD officer at Austin East High School

Another local community representative released a statement as well: Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. The mayor emphasized that when governments and law enforcement break the law, there is “only lawlessness and disorder.”

Regarding the horrible events in Memphis: I’m a strong believer in law and order. When police (and government in general) break the law, there is only lawlessness and disorder. This is absolutely unacceptable. My prayers are with Tyre Nichols’ family and the people of Memphis.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon also spoke on the death, saying she is sickened and heartbroken by the events.

The brutal, merciless beating of Tyre Nichols is nothing short of inhumane. This type of violence and abuse of power cannot and will not be tolerated.

I am sickened and heartbroken by what happened. My thoughts are with the Nichols family as they deal with this nightmare.

I urge everyone to honor the family’s requests for peaceful, non-violent protests.

Mayor Indya Kincannon

State-wise, Gov. Bill Lee released a statement, saying the department needs to “take a hard look” at the misconduct.

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 is pursuing an external, impartial investigation.

Maria & I are praying for Tyre Nichols’ family, & we ask that God bring peace, healing & justice to the Memphis community in these difficult days.

Gov. Bill Lee

Body camera footage of Nichols’ death was released Friday. Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney retained by Nichols’ family, said the video is “appalling, heinous, violent and troublesome.”