Tennessee: five police officers charged with murder after the brutal arrest of an African-American
These police officers from Memphis, a large city in Tennessee, all African-Americans, are the subject of several charges, including murder, assault and kidnapping, prosecutor Steve Mulroy announced at a press conference. , this Thursday.
On January 7, the police – since dismissed – wanted to arrest Tire Nichols, 29-year-old African-American, for a traffic violation. As the officers approached, a “confrontation had taken place” and “the suspect had fled”, explained the police. Caught up, Tire Nichols was finally arrested but complained of having difficulty breathing and was hospitalized. He died three days later.
“This is a beating, pure and simple”
The details of this arrest are not yet clear: a video of the facts exists but it has, for the moment, only been shown to the relatives of the victim and their lawyers. According to them, “the police beat him to the point that he was unrecognizable”. “It is a pure and simple beating, without interruption, of this young man for three minutes”, declared Me Antonio Romanucci.
During the press conference on Thursday, officials avoided describing precisely what had happened, referring to the images.
“When everyone has seen the video, I believe there will be no question as to the charges,” said prosecutor Steve Mulroy. What happened was “inadmissible” and “criminal” and “should not have happened”, insisted David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, present at his side. “In a word, it’s absolutely appalling. »
A “heinous act”
Lawyers for the victim’s family, including the famous Ben Crump, welcomed the indictment of the police. This news “gives us hope as we continue to demand justice for Tyre,” they commented.
Thursday, evoking his meetings with those close to Tire Nichols, prosecutor Steve Mulroy painted the portrait of an “almost perfect son”. “A jovial and happy person, who loved skateboarding,” he said.
The five officers charged were fired last week. The internal police investigation had shown that they had used excessive force. Other officers are still under investigation.
The officers involved are “directly responsible for the physical violence committed against Mr. Nichols”, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said on Wednesday, saying it was “not just a professional error. but from a lack of humanity (…) This act was heinous, irresponsible and inhuman. »
The video of the arrest will be made public this Friday after 6 p.m. local time. “I expect you to be outraged” by seeing these images, admitted Cerelyn Davis. Deeming the organization of demonstrations also likely, the police chief called not to “incite violence or destruction”.
A country marked by the death of George Floyd
The case finds a particular echo in a country still marked by the death of George Floyd, in May 2020, and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, against racism and police violence, which had followed. And the drama has reignited the debate on police violence in the country. Prosecutor Steve Mulroy thus hoped that this case “could open a broader conversation on the need for police reform”.
The president of the civil rights organization NAACP, Derrick Johnson, for his part, called on elected members of Congress to watch the video of the arrest, then to act. “We can name all the victims of police brutality but we cannot name a single law that you passed to fix the problem. »
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