Tyre Nichols’ Death: A Complete Timeline of Events

Activists hold signs showing Tyre Nichols

Here’s a complete timeline of the events surrounding Tyre Nichols’ death.

Earlier this month, five police officers were charged with the murder and kidnapping of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died in the hospital after being brutally beaten during a traffic stop in Memphis. The officers, who are all Black, were also relieved from duty following an internal investigation.

More recently, video footage of the arrest was released by Memphis police. Specifically, four separate videos were made available to the public, some of which came from body camera footage, and some of which came from street surveillance videos.

The videos show how officers inflicted a broad range of violence upon Nichols, from kicking his head to pepper spraying him to striking him with a baton. And while the evidence found within this video footage might prove essential during the criminal trial for those officers, there’s a rising social movement that argues the average civilian should not be watching any of these videos at all.

There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t watch those four videos or any video of police brutality in general. Here’s one such reason, according to Julie Scelfo of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“When it comes to police violence in particular… there has been no shortage of horrifying footage in recent years. That has helped expose the otherwise too-often-hidden scourge of systemic police brutality. Still, we must weigh the importance of documentation against the trauma of civilians who repeatedly view such violence. Mutilated human beings are the stuff of nightmares… the impact on our hearts and minds is similar in that our sympathetic nervous system is activated, with serious neurobiological consequences that scientists are only beginning to document.”

Consuming video footage of police brutality can lead to trauma, devastation, and the dehumanization of the Black community. With that said, it’s also essential to be aware of what actually is taking place in situations like these, so that you can be informed about the state of policing, and why it’s so necessary that we begin enacting serious legislative change around these issues.

For that reason, here’s a breakdown of what happened to Nichols, why the situation is so tragic and shocking, and who might be held responsible for Nichols’ death.

What happened during Tyre Nichols’ arrest?

Nichols was apprehended by officers on January 7 due to suspected reckless driving. He fled the vehicle and was pursued by several officers. According to a statement from Memphis police, “a confrontation occurred” between officers and the vehicle’s driver — later identified as Nichols.

Officers gave chase, apprehended him, and “another confrontation occurred,” resulting in Nichols’ arrest, police said. Nichols was so badly injured during the encounter that he was later transported to the hospital, where he died three days later.

An autopsy commissioned by Nichols’ family revealed that the cause of death was “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”

Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump told CNN that the incident, which was captured in that video footage, will “remind you of Rodney King in many regards.” King was beaten savagely by Los Angeles police after evading arrest in 1991. A man filmed the altercation from his balcony and sent the footage into a news station, and it circulated around the world, causing a public uproar.

“Being assaulted, battered, punched, kicked, tased, pepper sprayed. It is very troubling,” Crump said of Nichols’ arrest.

The initial response from Memphis Police

Immediately following the news of Nichols’ death, the five Black officers involved were relieved of duty from the Memphis Police department.

“After reviewing various sources of information involving this incident, I have found that it is necessary to take immediate and appropriate action,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said in a statement released on January 15. “Today, the department is serving notice to the officers involved of the impending administrative actions.”

Each of those five officers now faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct, and one charge of official oppression.

During a subsequent press conference, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy made reference to an apparent delay in seeking medical aid for Nichols after he was injured during the confrontation.

“There was another altercation at a nearby location at which the serious injuries were experienced by Mr. Nichols,” Mulroy continued. “After some period of time of waiting around afterward, he was taken away by an ambulance.”

Local authorities have continued to emphasize the seriousness with which the incident is being treated, and how that has been reflected in the speed of the investigation. After charges against the officers were announced on Thursday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said: “We have worked to get a resolution to these matters in record time because we take them extremely seriously.”

What Memphis police said when they released the video footage

Following the release of the video footage of the horrific event (in which Nichols could be heard, at one point, calling out for his mother), Davis condemned what took place within those recorded minutes.

“[It was] horrific, alarming, disappointing, and sad,” Davis said.

Davis is notably the first female police chief for the Memphis Police, and has served in the role since September 2021.

She also said of the released footage: “There were times when he was laying, there were times when he was sat up, there were times when he was mumbling and saying words, but it was obvious he was not in control of his physical self.”

More officials, including another police officer, have since been relieved from duty or suspended

In addition to the five officers charged with Nichols’ murder, other police and medical staff have been professionally impacted by their involvement in the tragic event. Two other Memphis Police officers were suspended on Jan. 8 along with the five who were subsequently charged. Only one of these, Preston Hemphill, a white man, has been named. A statement from Memphis Police Dept. on January 30 said that “numerous” impending charges are developing, but it isn’t clear which officers may be affected.

According to The New York Times, one of the four videos released was taken from Hemphill’s body camera. Activists have since alleged that Hemphill can be seen tasing Nichols at one point in that video, and they also allege that he is the one who can be heard saying, at one point, “I hope they stomp his ass.” Hemphill has not yet been charged with a crime; his lawyer has confirmed that he is cooperating with officials in the investigation.

Two emergency medical technicians, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, as well as fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker, have also lost their jobs, the Memphis Fire Department said on Monday. Memphis Fire Chief Gina Sweat said in a statement that an investigation had found that the two EMTs “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols” based on both the initial call, in which they were told that a person had been pepper-sprayed, and what they were told upon arrival.

Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been relieved of their duties pending an investigation. It’s not entirely clear what role each individual may or may not have played in the events of that evening — but it’s likely that more information will come to light in the months to come.

Memphis’ SCORPION Unit has been officially disbanded

According to Memphis police spokesperson Maj. Karen Rudolph, the five officers involved in Nichols’ death were members of the city’s controversial “SCORPION Unit,” which stands for the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods. The unit was created in October 2021 in response to rising crime rates and was meant to address homicides, assaults, and other high-stakes crimes.

The SCORPION unit has been the focus of extensive criticism in the last year, and now, questions are circulating around what role it played in Nichols’ death. For example, it’s not clear whether officers were acting as a part of the SCORPION unit when they beat Nichols.

In the days following Nichols’ death, the SCORPION unit was made inactive. Memphis police have since confirmed that the unit is “permanently deactivated.”

The Memphis Police department said in a statement:

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process of all those impacted. The Memphis Police Department remains committed to serving our community and taking every measure possible to rebuild the trust that has been negatively affected by the death of Mr. Tyre Nichols.”

Nichols’ memorial fund surpasses $1 million

The official GoFundMe for Nichols’ memorial, organized by his mother, RowVaughn Wells, has surpassed $1 million in the last several days.

In the summary for the page, Wells writes that the funds will go towards a number of essential goals, including the construction of a memorial skate park for Nichols, who loved to skateboard, as well as some much-needed assistance for herself and her husband.

“We are two hardworking, loving parents, that now have to turn our full-time attention to seeking proper justice for our son, Tyre Nichols,” Wells wrote. “In addition, we have yet to have the proper space to begin our grieving process, which will be long and burdensome. This fundraiser will help cover the costs of our mental health services. It will also cover time off from our 9-5 jobs because we do not have unlimited PTO.”

Wells also wrote a heartbreaking tribute about who her son was, and how she wants him to be remembered.

“Tyre Nichols was loved by his community and was known to be gentle, kind, and joyful,” Wells wrote. “He loved skating and was originally from the Bay Area in California. He was known as someone ‘you know when he comes through the door he wants to give you a hug’ and that ‘he wouldn’t hurt a fly.'”

Wells continued, “He had never been in trouble with the law, not even a parking ticket. He was an honest man, a wonderful son, and kind to everyone. He was quirky and true to himself, and his loss will be felt nationally.”