MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U.S. Attorney for Western Tennessee Kevin G. Ritz held a news conference Wednesday morning on the investigation into the death of Tyre Nichols.
Ritz said he spoke with Nichols' family, saying "I told the Nichols family that we care deeply about constitutional rights across America and we have opened a federal civil rights investigation."
Ritz said his office is working with the Civil Rights Division and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the investigation. He said it will be "thorough" and "methodical" and will continue until they gather all of the relevant facts.
"As with any other federal investigation, we will go where those facts take us," he said.
Ritz said he told Nichols' family that the federal investigation may take some time, "these things often do," but they will be diligent and make decisions "based on the facts and the law."
Ritz said state and local authorities will determine the timing of the release of the video. He said on behalf of the federal authorities, they want people to express their right to be heard, but they want them to do so "in a peaceful and non-violent way."
"I grew up in this city. I care deeply about this city. I want this city to be a place where justice is done. The United States is committed to following the facts and the law, guided by principles of justice every step of the way," said Ritz.
ABC24 also reached out to FedEx, where Nichols worked, and they released the following statement Wednesday: "We are shocked and saddened by the loss of our team member, Tyre Nichols, and our thoughts are with his family, friends, and co-workers. As this is an active investigation, additional questions should be directed to the investigating authorities."
This all comes after Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said the release of video of the confrontation between Nichols and police will be timed to carefully timed in an effort to not hinder any prosecution.
"I have to be careful commenting about specific facts of the case particularly before we're even ready to release the video," Mulroy said.
The release of the video, showing Nichols' confrontation with Memphis Police that eventually led to his death, is the subject of widespread demand around Memphis.
Mulroy told the Associated Press investigators probing Nichols’ Jan. 7 arrest want to complete as many interviews as possible before releasing the video this week or next week.
Nichols' family attorney Ben Crump said he better see the video released in the next two weeks, or, as he stated to activists at a family press conference Monday, "Do what you have to do."
Crump, who's representing Nichols' family, said police video the family viewed showed that Nichols — a 29-year-old FedEx worker and father — was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained when he was pulled over for a traffic stop near his home. He was returning home from a suburban park, where he had taken photos of the sunset. The legal team said that officers beat Nichols for three minutes in a “savage” encounter reminiscent of the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.
Crump released a statement Tuesday saying that a forensic pathologist who was hired by the family conducted an independent autopsy that showed extensive internal bleeding. The statement did not state a cause of death or include the independent pathologist's report. The statement said further details would be released later. Tennessee authorities have not released an autopsy of Nichols.
Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
Release of the video could coincide with a decision on whether to charge five Memphis Police Department who have been fired from the force for their involvement in Nichols’ arrest, Mulroy said. He declined to comment about whether charges are likely.
Nichols’ family has agreed to investigators’ request to wait a week or two before making the video public to “make sure to give this family what they want most, and that is justice,” Crump said.
Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis had previously issued a statement saying body camera footage would be made public after an internal department investigation and after the family viewed it. The police department finished its investigation Friday, which is when the officers were fired.
The officers have been identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees have also been removed from duty while the agency conducts an investigation into Nichols' death. The employees were involved in the initial patient care of Nichols, the Memphis Fire Department said in a statement.
Nichols was arrested Jan. 7, 2023, after officers stopped him for reckless driving. The day after the encounter, police said in a statement that “a confrontation occurred” as officers approached the vehicle and Nichols ran; they said officers caught up to him and that ”another confrontation occurred” while they were taking him into custody. Police said Nichols complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital, where he died three days later on Jan. 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.