MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The federal civil rights investigation launched last week after the death of Tyre Nichols following a confrontation with police “may take some time,” U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz said Wednesday.
At a news conference, Ritz said he has met with Nichols’ family and that he told them that “this federal civil rights investigation will be thorough, it will be methodical, and it will continue until we gather all the relevant facts.”
State, local and federal officials launched investigations after Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, three days after an encounter with Memphis police, WHBQ-TV reported.
Authorities said Nichols ran from officers after being pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving, according to the news station. Police said officers had two “confrontations” with Nichols, after which he complained of shortness of breath. Authorities took him to a hospital, where he later died, WHBQ reported.
On Friday, the Memphis Police Department fired five officers involved in Nichols’ arrest, saying in a statement that they “violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
An independent autopsy found that Nichols died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” WHBQ reported.
After viewing police-recorded videos of the confrontation between Nichols and police, family attorneys said that the 29-year-old was Tased, pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and kicked, according to WHBQ. Attorney Ben Crump compared the video to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, calling it “very troublesome on every level,” the news station reported.
“He was a human pinata for those police officers,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said, according to WHBQ. “It was a nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes. That is what we saw in that video. Not only was it violent. It was savage.”
Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, on Monday remembered Nichols as a hard worker who loved skateboarding and taking pictures.
“My son didn’t deserve what he got,” he said. “My son deserves justice.”
Nichols’ mother said he was two minutes away from home when he was stopped by police. She accused officers of having murdered her son, according to WHBQ.
“When I walked into that hospital room my son was already dead,” RowVaughn Wells said. “The (hospital), they put him on a breathing machine just for my satisfaction, I guess. But my son died on Jan. 7. The doctors pulled the plug on Jan. 10.”
Crump told reporters that Tyre Nichols could be heard calling for his mother three times at the end of the police video shown to family members on Monday.
Authorities have said that they plan to release the video to the public, though it remained unclear Wednesday when the release would happen. Chief Cerelyn Davis and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy have warned that releasing the video too early could compromise the ongoing investigation into the case, according to WHBQ.
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