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Memphis, state and national leaders weigh in on Tyre Nichols' death at the hands of Memphis Police

With the announcement of murder charges against five Memphis Police officers involved in Nichols' death, community leaders are speaking out.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn — The death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis Police officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop sparked outrage throughout the country Thursday, as murder charges were announced against former officers Desmond Mills Jr., Emmit Martin III, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Justin Smith.

Memphis community leaders, state legislators and even the President of the United States weighed in on Nichols' death. Here are some of their statements:

President Joe Biden

Friday afternoon, ABC News reports President Biden spoke with Nichol's parents RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, to directly express his and Dr. Biden's condolences for their son's death. During the conversation, the President commended the family's courage and strength.

The President sent a statement to media Thursday:

Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death.

As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.

Public trust is the foundation of public safety and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.

We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people.

To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.

That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk. When they didn’t, I signed an executive order that included stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level.

Today, we all must re-commit ourselves to the critical work that must be done to advance meaningful reforms.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

The state governor posted a statement online Thursday afternoon:

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland

Strickland posted a video statement to the City of Memphis' media Twitter account Thursday:

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he has not seen the bodycam footage of the incident, and neither does he plan to. He also said he is happy that the offense and obstruction of civil rights has been met with a sense of urgency.

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen

Cohen, from Memphis, issued a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday: 

Right now, much of the national media is looking at Memphis as there was an awful killing of a 29-year-old African American man by five police officers within the last few weeks. The five police officers have been fired by the Police Department for violating their oaths…It could be a situation where people want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest actions of the Police Department, and people should. But they should be peaceful and calm.

We have a new D.A. We have a new U.S. Attorney. And we have a new Police Director. They are the right people at the right time to bring about reform and to deal with this case to see that justice is rendered.

I grieve for the life of Tyre Nichols, whose life should not have been extinguished. He was an outstanding young man and it’s extremely sad that he was killed.

I pray for my city.

Tennessee State Senator London Lamar

State Senate Democratic leaders issued statements today following charges against the police officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols:

Like many of us, I feel traumatized by Tyre Nichols’ death and I am disturbed by the actions of the officers who were involved.

While today we send our heartfelt condolences to the Nichols family, tomorrow we work toward achieving continuous accountability for law enforcement.

This may be the most egregious act of police brutality in our nation’s history. It shows exactly how much work we have to do to build trust between our people and the officers who pledge to serve and protect our community.

Accountability for the officers involved in Tyre’s death is the first step. The next step is for law enforcement, state and federal officials, and local leaders to investigate why this happened. We have to fix the root causes of police brutality and then do the work to make sure it never happens again.

Tennessee State Senator Raumesh Akbari

State Senate Democratic leaders issued statements today following charges against the police officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols:

While I applaud the swift action of the district attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Memphis Police Department, there is no justice for Tyre Nichols today.

Justice would be Tyre living to see his next birthday. Justice is people in this community having trust that our police officers will first police themselves. No one should fear for their life during a simple traffic stop or be afraid to even engage with our officers.

So instead, today we begin the long act of healing our hurting community, Tyre’s mother and family, and ourselves.

We cannot move forward together unless we are willing to do the work to hold our police department to the highest ethical standards and uproot any existence or acceptance of police brutality. This is our call to action and we must be vigilant.

Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson

The Tennessee representative from Memphis sent a statement to the media Thursday on Nichols' death:

While seeing our justice system at work with the charging of the five officers involved in the death of #TyreNichols, we must continue to keep the family of Tyre Nichols lifted in prayer. These are the beginning stages of what will be a long and arduous journey for them and for our city. There is no good that can come out of this tragic situation. Unless there is a way to bring Tyre back, justice is limited to what it is supposed to do and that is find, try and convict those responsible for taking the life of Tyre.

Tennessee State Rep. David Kustoff

The representative from West Tennessee posted a statement to his Twitter account Thursday:

Tennessee State Rep. John Gillespie 

The Tennessee representative from Memphis sent a statement to the media Thursday on Nichols' death:

Thank you to Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis and District Attorney Steve Mulroy for taking the time to ensure justice is served in the Tyre Nichols murder. This was a tragedy that shouldn’t have occurred and it cost a young man his life. Chief Davis and DA Mulroy understood that getting things right and ensuring justice is served is much more important than doing things in a rush.

We are blessed to live in a country that protects the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. I encourage those who wish to have their voices heard to do so in a manner that is peaceful and honors the member of Tyre Nichols. Together our community can heal and move forward.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson

The NAACP released a statement on behalf of their president, Derrick Johnson, Thursday:

Our country is once again bracing for the release of another traumatizing video of yet another police killing. If anyone needs to see this video, it's every single leader in congress. Sit in your comfy leather chair, watch the video when it is released, and tell us what else you need to vote "yes" on police reform.

By failing to write a piece of legislation, you're writing another obituary. By failing to pass the legislation, you're passing on your sworn duty to protect the people. We know just how much all of you will be thinking and praying upon the release of the video, you don't need to mention it. Instead, tell us what you're going to do about it. Tell us what you're going to do to honor Tyre Nichols. Tell us what you're going to do to show his family, his loving son, and this entire nation, that his life was not lost in vain. We can name all the victims of police violence, but we can't name a single law you have passed to address it.

The National Civil Rights Museum

Russ Wiggington, the president of the National Civil Rights Museum, released a letter addressed to the community on Saturday, Jan 28:

"Watching the horrible circumstances that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death is hard to stomach. It’s never okay to normalize the beating of Black bodies, regardless of the aggressor. It is understandable to feel outraged. We can be both emotional and strategic to realize the better world we want to see.

The National Civil Rights Museum is listening and believing, so unheard voices do not have to resort to violence. We encourage responsible civil disobedience so that transformative actions lead to justice for Tyre Nichols and the thousands of others like him.

The world is watching Memphis. Our community can set precedence for swift, effective action toward justice, but we know a lot more needs to be done. While due process takes time, we know “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We must remain vigilant, keep unity in our community, and continue to hold our officials – and each other – accountable. It will take a collaborative effort by a broad spectrum of citizens from many disciplines, industries, and roles to root out the causes at a systemic level.

We stand ready to be a vehicle toward understanding. This is part of the message expressed daily within our museum walls as we tell stories of a centuries-long fight for civil rights. As a site of conscience and a safe space to inspire action for positive social change, it is part of our mission to respond humanely with our eyes toward solutions.

The National Civil Rights Museum is in it for the long haul so the kind of transformative, equal justice we all deserve now can happen. There’s always a tipping point, so staying ready with viable, sustainable strategies is critical.

We stand with the family of Tyre Nichols and our Memphis community until justice is served.

I share this statement to assure our community that we are with you during this troubling time and share the responsibility of seeking justice, respect, and humanity for all citizens."

Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci

The civil rights attorneys representing the family of Tyre Nichols released a statement reacting to the charges filed against five MPD officers Thursday: 

The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre. 

This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop. 

This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death. Tyre’s loved ones’ lives were forever changed when he was beaten to death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served.

Memphis Grizzlies

"We are distraught at finding ourselves dealing with a needless loss of life due to police brutality, and this time it was one of Memphis's own. We're thinking of the Nichols family and friends, and share the pain being felt throughout our community. So let's support each other and respect how our fellow Memphians are coping. We have faith in this city and our power to heal.

To the Nichols family and friends, we offer our deepest sympathies and condolences for your loss. #JusticeForTyre"

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