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Local, state, & national leaders react to video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis Police officers

Nichols died three days after the beating on Jan. 7, 2023, and five Memphis officers have been indicted and charged.
Credit: AP
Protesters march Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn., as authorities release police video depicting five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, whose death resulted in murder charges and provoked outrage at the country's latest instance of police brutality. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — National, state, and Memphis area leaders are reacting to the video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by Memphis Police officers.

Nichols died three days after the beating on Jan. 7, and five Memphis officers have been indicted and charged.

President Joe Biden

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.

My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss.

The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.

I spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr. Nichols’ mother and stepfather, this afternoon. There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a beloved child and young father. Nothing can bring Mr. Nichols back to his family and the Memphis community. But Mr. and Mrs. Wells, Mr. Nichols’ son, and his whole family deserve a swift, full, and transparent investigation.

We must do everything in our power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all. Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again. That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk. When Senate Republicans blocked that bill, I signed an executive order that mandated 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.”

U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN)

“Like so many across our state and nation, I am deeply disturbed by the video footage released this evening. My prayers are with Tyre Nichols' family as they endure unimaginable grief.

“My team and I have been closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with community leaders, local officials, and Governor Lee's office. At the federal level, I have asked the Department of Justice and FBI to keep my office apprised of their ongoing investigations.

“The criminal justice system must swiftly pursue accountability. I echo Governor Lee in urging a full, independent investigation to determine what happened and how to prevent such misconduct from ever happening again.

“My priority remains the community of Memphis and its citizens during this difficult time.”

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) 

“The footage released tonight is difficult to watch. My office has been in contact with DOJ and will continue to work with our federal and local officials. I am confident the Memphis Police Department and State of Tennessee will conduct a thorough investigation. Chuck and I are praying for the loved ones of Tyre Nichols and for peace in Memphis and across our state."

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN)

“It is overwhelming to watch. It’s clear that Tyre Nichols died because of the brutality and callous disregard, really an appalling lack of humanity, of the Memphis police officers. From the first encounter with the police, it’s clear this was about ego. There was no respect for Tyre Nichols and no answer to his simple question asking what he’d done. They were not there to serve and protect, or even to apprehend; they were there to punish and dominate. Early in the video of the first interaction, one of the officers can be heard saying ‘let’s give him a stomping,’ or ‘let’s stomp on him.’ That showed the mentality, and the other officers seem to embrace it and then go to it.

“After Tyre Nichols fled, there was no effort to de-escalate and calm the situation. Instead, the ‘pack’ mentality of these officers was about inflicting vengeance with no regard for Tyre as a human being. With Tyre on the ground, one officer punched him two or three times in the head, another kicked him repeatedly in the head for no reason, and another struck him again and again with a baton. When Tyre was obviously terribly hurt, they leaned him against a car and left him while they chatted and sometimes even laughed. They were apathetic and callous about his injuries. They were in no hurry to render aid to the man they had beaten. They were more interested in themselves. This includes not only the officers charged so far but the other officers on the scene who rendered no aid to a grievously injured man as he lay handcuffed on the ground.

“Tyre should be at home right now with his family, he should be having dinner with his Mother, he should be skateboarding. Instead, these ‘police officers’ took everything from him. The charges are appropriate. Justice for Tyre.”

Democratic State House Minority Leader, Rep. Karen Camper

“Like so many of my fellow Memphians, I watched with horror as five Memphis Police Officers savagely beat Tyre Nichols; And I am one of the thousands of Memphians, and people around the nation and the world who have followed this tragic event who are offering their sincere condolences to the Nichols family. This act of violence and abuse of power has no place in our city nor in our police department.

I am asking all Memphians to come together tonight to console the Nichols family through prayer to heal their personal pain; and to also pray for our city and those that are also seeking justice. Now more than ever, Memphis needs leaders who will be dedicated to fixing our broken criminal justice system. Memphis needs leaders who can bring the community together to rebuild trust with our police department. Memphis needs a new direction and that new direction must start right here and right now.”

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy

"The City of Memphis has now released the video documenting the tragic murder of Tyre Nichols. I know the Shelby County community, and the nation, are feeling both the outrage and the deep pain that comes with witnessing these acts of violence.

We know the family and community are in mourning. And we recognize and understand the right to public protest, but both we and Tyre’s family ask that any demonstrations in response to the video be peaceful.

The video was released because it was important to the community and to Tyre’s family, as they want the world to be their witness and feel their pain. But as we witness the tragic end of Tyre’s life, I also urge you to remember Tyre Nichols as his family does: with his big smile, skateboarding, and being a loving family member.

The release was delayed because it was important to make sure witnesses spoke first from their memory and nothing else. As D.A., I have always sought to balance out the rightful demands of the community with protecting the integrity of our investigation and prosecution.

It’s my hope that this tragedy can lead to a broader conversation on police reform. Memphis has a number of local community groups and I urge you to support them in their social justice efforts. We also commit to partnering with them and doing whatever we can with our resources to help our community heal.
While nothing we do can bring Tyre back, we promise you that we are doing all we can to ensure that Tyre’s family, and our city of Memphis, see justice for Tyre Nichols."

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner

Rev. Jason Lawrence Turner

The pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church where Nichols’ funeral will be held on Wednesday, has issued the following statement:

"Tonight’s publicly released video of the beating of Tyre Nichols has confirmed an unfortunate, but expected, reality: what happened to Tyre is nothing short of wanton violence, sheer cruelness and pure inhumanity in action. The video is further proof that our city’s and our nation’s criminal justice systems are in dire need of change. 

The actions of the five Memphis police officers involved in the beating death of Tyre Nichols are part of a bigger trend, that is, the systemic injustices and abuses of power that are still rampant throughout the United States criminal justice system. Tragically, Tyre is this trend’s latest victim. But it has thousands of victims in thousands of communities across this country. 

The color of the officers who’ve been indicted is beside the point. They must be held accountable as must any person and any system that would abuse marginalized people. We must demand policy changes nationwide that finally pull systemic injustice out by the roots. We must put an end to this violence in our nation. We must start tonight in Memphis. 

Today can mark the beginning of the Second Civil Rights Movement: beyond individual equality to systemic equality. We demand a system that manifests justice for all, not the privileged few. In Tyre’s name, systemic justice is what we must demand and fight for – each day going forward until we overcome."

Memphis Urban League

"The Memphis Urban League expresses its sincerest condolences and sends heartfelt prayer to the family and friends of Tyre Nichols as well as the City of Memphis during this time of Grief and Sadness. We are sorry about your loss... our loss... and we will keep each of you in our prayers. 

This is a difficult time for not only the Tyre Nichols’ family but the city of Memphis. This tragedy is not limited to Memphis but affects the nation as a whole.

Police Violence and Brutality will not be accepted in our city or anywhere else going forward. We stand in solidarity as a community. We will push for tougher laws and policies against police Violence and Brutality from our law enforcement and national security agencies.

The Memphis Urban League not only sends it deepest condolences to all who have lost a loved one due to police Violence and Brutality. Our hearts grieve with you. We are terribly and profoundly disturbed by these five officers’ inability to serve the community properly in which it was sworn to do so. Police Violence and Brutality is forever present from community to community - state to state, and we must set the blueprint for how our communities, the DA’s and our legal and justice systems respond with EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL. We can no longer respond with no priority, but we must see that all law enforcement agencies be handled with equal justice and timing for all.

Yours in the Movement!"

League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters of the United States issued the following joint statement with the League of Women Voters of Memphis-Shelby County:

“Today we witnessed yet another senseless murder of a Black man at the hands of the police. Our hearts are broken. As we learn the details surrounding the murder of Tyre Nichols, we are angry that this nation, once again, is traumatized by fatal police brutality against a person of color.

“We demand justice for Tyre Nichols and the countless Black people who are disproportionally murdered by the police. The roots of racism in our justice system have poisoned the very institution that is indebted to serve us.

“We know that, in the end, justice doesn’t bring back the lives of Tyre Nichols or the other people of color who have been senselessly murdered by law enforcement. At the League, we seek a democracy that values and cherishes every person. When our systems continue to enact violence on Black bodies, our democracy is not whole.

“Across the nation, people demonstrating and protesting in the streets are showing what democracy looks like. We stand with these activists as they exercise their right to assemble and grieve this injustice.

“We mourn with the family of Tyre Nichols, and our thoughts are with the city of Memphis as they endure this tragedy. May their mourning bring change to a broken nation.”

Memphis Police Association

The Memphis Police Association released a statement on their Facebook page:

"The Memphis Police Association would, again, like to extend condolences to the family of Mr. Tyre Nichols. The Memphis Police Association is committed to the administration of justice and NEVER condones the mistreatment of ANY citizen nor ANY abuse of power. 

We have faith in the Criminal Justice System. That faith is what we will lean on in the coming days, weeks, and months to ensure the totality of circumstances is revealed. Mr. Nichols’ family, the City of Memphis, and the rest of the country deserve nothing less. We pray for justice, healing, and eventual closure for all involved."

National Urban League

National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial issued the following statement:

“Excessive force doesn’t begin to describe the inhumane violence these officers inflicted on a terrified and defenseless young man who posed no apparent threat to anyone. My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols family, whose grief and trauma at this moment are hard to imagine.

“The officers weren’t defending themselves. They weren’t defending the citizens they were sworn to protect. They weren’t protecting property or stopping a crime in progress. This was violence for the sake of violence, a shocking disregard for humanity and decency. It’s indefensible under any circumstances but especially egregious coming from officers entrusted with public safety.

“This wasn’t simply a failure of policy; the department has clear guidelines on the use of force. The larger problem is the culture of brutality and sense of impunity that still pervades law enforcement 30 years after the videotaped beating of Rodney King appalled the nation. Five officers behaving together in the same violent and lawless manner without even one intervening to stop it – apparently, without the slightest expectation that anyone would object – is clear evidence of a culture that tolerates violence and lawlessness.

“Public safety depends on trust; police brutality erodes that trust. The National Urban League developed 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Community Trust as a guideline not only for reforming policies and procedures, but for reimagining the relationship between police and the communities they serve. Departments must set clear expectations for integrity from the moment of recruitment and strictly enforce them at every step of the way.

“The National Urban League and our affiliates around the country are committed to working with police departments to achieve this lasting change.”

The National Football League

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