on the Murder of Tyre Nichols and the Need for Justice
and Immediate Passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
February 1, 2023
We have witnessed the videos of the shocking, horrifying and completely avoidable beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police within a hundred yards of his home as he cried out for his mother. We fully support the quick firing of the officers, charges against them (and hopefully everyone not yet charged who violated the law) and video release. Furthermore, we again call for Congress to immediately pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (summarized below) that was previously passed by the House as a first step to bring fundamental systems reform to prevent future tragedies.
We are grieving with all Black people, as well as our world. We are committed to being an ally in bringing about fundamental systems change. We are called by our moral duty, mission and core beliefs about justice and humanity to take action with a commitment to Never Again.
These are the facts as we understand them. Tyre Nichols was a 29-year-old Black man who worked for FedEx and was the loving father of a 4-year old son. He was the youngest of four children and his mother RowVaugh Wells described him as a “good boy” who enjoyed skateboarding and photographing sunsets. He was visiting his family in Memphis from his home in Sacramento when the pandemic started and things shut down, so he stayed and got a job working the overnight shift at FedEx. Nichols had Crohn’s disease and was a slim 140 to 145 pounds despite his 6-foot-3-inch height, his mother said.
It’s still unclear why his car was stopped by the police in the first place, although they claim “reckless driving.” What’s clear is that the police came in “hot”, seemingly angry and out of control, screaming and swearing at him to get out of his car. Tyre said okay and was in the process of complying but the police proceeded to drag him out and then pepper spray him in the face, even though he was no threat, had no weapon and was pleading with them to just let him go home.
As various police chiefs and attorneys have commented, the police behavior was completely contrary to their training of de-escalation. In fact, Tyre was the only one who was calm and tried to de-escalate the situation. He kept asking why he was being stopped, which the police never answered.
Tyre then tried to escape (probably trying to run to his nearby home and mother) and was tasered, but ran off and was captured a half mile away. That’s when the extreme, out of control police violence escalated into what would lead to his death. While Tyre was restrained by several cops, one cop came in and kicked him three times in the head, another beat him at least 3 times with a baton, and a third punched him several times in the head. The police acted completely against the law.
And just as illegal was the fact that another large group of officers witnessed this 4-minute beating and did nothing to stop it, despite being required to intervene.
The police then dragged Tyre over to sit against their police car. He continually fell over and was pushed back up as he seemed to fall in and out of consciousness, likely due to the severe brain trauma he sustained from the beating. The large group of police officers just stood around and didn’t give him any aid, which is against police policy. Two EMTs came and seemingly did nothing. It took nearly a half hour before an ambulance finally came. This is tragic and outrageous given the limited time to act after such trauma.
We can only hope that the tragic, heinous and unwarranted death of Tyre, along with the deaths of George Floyd and so many other Black men and people of color will shock all Americans into joining with us in calling for fundamental change. We feel one important and necessary but not sufficient first step we can take is to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for which we have been advocating. It would make a difference by increasing accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricting the use of certain policing practices, enhancing transparency and data collection, and establishing best practices and training requirements.
The Act would:
- Lower the criminal intent standard — from willful to knowing or reckless — to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution
- Limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer
- Grant administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations
- Establish a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels
- Limit the unnecessary use of force
- Restrict the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds
- Create a national registry — the National Police Misconduct Registry — to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct
- Establish new reporting requirements, including on the use of force, officer misconduct, and routine policing practices (e.g., stops and searches)
- Direct the Department of Justice to create uniform accreditation standards for law enforcement agencies
- Require law enforcement officers to complete training on racial profiling, implicit bias, and the duty to intervene when another officer uses excessive force
We know that these are just first steps but feel they are an important place to begin. For us to allow anything less than all of these essential changes would make each of us a bystander, just like millions of ordinary people who stood by and watched as the Nazis killed 6 million Jews and many more. We must say Never Again.
We hope you will either share this or make your own statement and then join with us and others in grieving, sharing your feelings with others and then using your voice and power, whether writing a letter, participating in protests, voting and/or using your dollars to support fundamental change. Together, we can co-create a world of justice, equity, sustainability, health, equity and kindness.
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