The legal team representing the family of Tyre Nichols has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Memphis and its police department, reports WREG. Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis, former officers and the Memphis Fire Department are named in the suit.
In the 140-page lawsuit, Nichols' death is compared to the murder of Emmett Till.
“Unlike Till, this lynching was carried out by those adorned in department sweatshirts and vests, and their actions were sanctioned— expressly and implicitly—by the City of Memphis,” the suit states.
At the news conference on Wednesday to announce the suit, RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, spoke about the purpose of the lawsuit.
“This has nothing to do with the monetary value of this lawsuit, but has everything to do with accountability,” Wells said. “Those five officers murdered my son. They beat him to death. And they need to be held accountable along with everyone else that has something to do with my son’s murder.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who also attended the news conference, described the killing of Nichols as “torture, savage, brutal, de-humanizing” in the 140-page lawsuit. He also criticizes the procedures and the policies under the leadership of MPD Chief CJ Davis
“It is our mission to make it financially unsustainable for these police oppression units to unjustly kill Black people in the future,” Crump said.
“This landmark lawsuit is not only to get the justice for Tyre Nichols in the civil courts but it is also a message that is being sent to cities all across America who have these police oppression units that have been given the license by city leaders to go in and terrorize Black and Brown communities,” Crump added.
On January 7, 2023, five Memphis police department officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmit Martin, and Desmond Mills Jr.—stopped Nichols on suspicion of reckless driving in Shelby County. During the traffic stop, Nichols ran away from the vehicle. When officers caught up with him, they continually punched and kicked him in the head for three minutes. Nichols was also struck on the back with a baton as he was restrained on the ground.
Surveillance footage captured the fatal incident and Nichols died in the hospital three days later from his injuries.
Following an internal investigation, the five officers were all charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct, and one charge of official oppression on January 26.
At the time, the five officers worked as members of the department’s specialized SCORPION unit, a specialized unit created to take on a rise in violent crime in Memphis in 2021. The unit has now been disbanded.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Memphis Police Department.