MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. Department of Justice describes Tyre Nichols encounter with Memphis Police as an incident where officers “used force during his arrest,” before the 29-year-old ended up in the hospital and died three days later.
It’s the most detailed account of what happened during the January 7 traffic stop released to the public so far. It was part of a statement from Kevin Ritz, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, in the DOJ’s Wednesday press release announcing that it has opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.
Nichols’ family believes he was the victim of police brutality and the public outcry to release video of the incident is growing louder across the country.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says he knows that people want answers, but to make sure Nichols’ family gets justice, those answers will take time.
“I cannot imagine losing a child in this manner,” the mayor said. “We want to be transparent, we want to be fair and we want to do the right thing.”
Mayor Strickland says the city’s internal investigation into possible city policy violations by the officers involved, should wrap up in a matter of days.
“What happens is, internal affairs does an investigation. That ended on Saturday. They draft up notice of violation of city policy and that was done Sunday,” the mayor explained “There has to be a hearing by some leadership in MPD and that hearing is the end of this week. And that hearing would only be about punishment as an employee, it has nothing to do with criminal culpability.”
The criminal investigation is the responsibility of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, per the request of Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.
“I called the TBI in because I felt, in this instance, we needed an independent investigation,” he said.
Officials have said that video of what MPD called a “confrontation” between officers and Nichols, would not be released publicly until after the city is done with it’s internal investigation and Nichols’ family has had the opportunity to see it for themselves.
But the timeline for that could depend on the status of the TBI investigation.
“Any part of the investigative file for TBI can’t be released until the investigation is complete, which can sometimes take months,” D.A. Mulroy said.
The district attorney says he is committed to getting the video released before that, provided that doing so would not jeopardize two key areas.
“(A.) We have to do it legally and (B.) we have to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the investigation,” D.A. Mulroy said.
Mayor Strickland says he cannot comment on whether Nichols’ arrest was recorded on MPD body cameras or some other device but says the public will see it all.
“When we say video would be released, it will be ALL video,” the mayor said.
Mayor Strickland says the city will be cooperating completely with the civil rights investigation, which will be a coordinated effort involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the DOJ Civil Rights Division.
"I want to make sure we don't (release information) prematurely in a way that would compromise the ongoing investigation,” D.A. Mulroy reiterated. “I'm asking the public to be patient. I'm committed to transparency and we are going to try to release what information we can, as soon as we can."
ABC24 reached out to TBI regarding the status of its investigation. A public information officer said there is no current timetable for how long the investigation might last.
Mayor Strickland says he tried reaching out to Nichols’ mother on Monday and his office is coordinating with the family’s attorney Ben Crump to set up a time to meet.