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Tyre Nichols’ Family Sues Memphis, Police Officers for $550M Over ‘Ruthless’ Beating By ‘Pack of Wolves’

The family of Tyre Nichols filed a lawsuit against the police officers who beat Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis on Jan. 7, 2023.

The lawsuit also names the city of Memphis, the Memphis Police Department and Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis.

Tyre Nichols
Tyre Nichols was beaten by Memphis Police Department officers on January 7, 2023. He died three days later. (Photo: lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee)

Nichols died three days after he was beaten by several Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills and Justin Smith — during a traffic stop. Nichols was shocked with a Taser, pepper-sprayed and beaten during the stop for alleged reckless driving.

Related: ‘Shielded and Protected’: Memphis Police Takes Two Weeks to Fire White Officer Caught on Video Saying ‘I Hope They Stomp His A–‘ During Tyre Nichols Beating

The claim was filed on April 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee and describes Nichols’ beating by the members of the MPD SCORPION unit as “a pack of wolves attempting to hunt down their wounded prey.”

The claim also notes the 29-year-old cried out for his mother during the beating and “was lifted back up” after he fell to the ground so that the officers “could continue to tee-off with more punches, strikes, kicks, and chemical sprays” as their body cameras recorded the beating.

“Such a ruthless and brutal beating could only be carried out by officers that were devoid of any fear of discipline or intervention by a supervisor and with a hardened, defined sense of impunity garnered from those running their Department,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also describes the police and paramedics withholding medical attention from Nichols as they joked about his condition and compared his beating to the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, calling the officers a “modern-day lynch mob.”

“He was dying and those on scene knew it.”

Nichols died on Jan. 10, 2023. The five former cops were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. They pleaded not guilty in February.

His family’s attorneys — Benjamin Crump, Antonio Romanucci and retired Judge Earnestine Hunt Dorse — told NPR that those responsible must be held accountable.

“How does this horrific and unconstitutional treatment of Black men and women by law enforcement continue to happen,” said the statement. “Please, Memphis. Please, America, we must hold these people accountable and create meaningful change once and for all.”

According to the chief legal officer in Memphis, Jennifer Sink, the investigation uncovered a total of 13 officers from the MPD with varied degrees of involvement in Nichols’ beating and subsequent death.

A police lieutenant later identified as Dewayne Smith retired with full benefits before a hearing could be held about his involvement. Seven others were fired while three more were suspended. Two officers had the charges against them dropped. The SCORPION unit, which stands for which Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, was deactivated on Jan. 28.

Romanucci said at a press conference on Wednesday that the SCORPION unit had one objective, to stop Black men.

“The SCORPION unit was a stinger, and it only had one mission. Stop young black men in cars,” he said. “They killed him, and they let him die.”

Crump quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said, “The law can’t make a man love me, but the law can keep a man from lynching me.”

The family is seeking $550 million in damages.

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