Tyre Nichols Did Not Deserve to Die

Five Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols.
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Footage showing five law enforcement officers beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, was released on Friday, in what will likely be another high-profile story related to police brutality. The video spread all over social media, with many expressing outrage by the senseless act of violence that took an American citizen’s life.


As major cities prepared for possible violence in response to the video, the usual conversations about race and policing have already begun. Many on the left suggested Nichol’s killing was a result of racism, even though all five officers involved in the altercation were also black. But regardless of their motive, one disturbing reality can be seen from the footage: Tyre Nichols did not deserve to die.

The incident began when officers pulled Nichols over for allegedly driving recklessly. Bodycam footage shows officers rushing to his car with guns drawn, yelling for him to get out of the car. One of the officers opens the door and drags him out, while Nichols says “I didn’t do anything.”

The officers get Nichols on the ground, while Nichols tries to calm them down. “You guys are doing a lot right now,” he pleaded. “I’m just trying to get home.”

After a struggle, one of the officers tases Nichols, as he runs away.

Later, the officers caught up with Nichols, and another confrontation ensued. Bodycam and nearby security footage show the officers punching and kicking Nichols while he is on the ground. At another point, one of the officers stands him up and holds him from behind, as the other officers take turns punching him in the face. One of the other officers brandishes a baton and hits Nichols with it repeatedly. Nichols had already been placed in handcuffs when the officers assaulted him.


After the beating, the officers sat Nichols on the ground next to a car and milled about for 30 minutes, discussing the incident. They appeared to be trying to get their stories straight. After Nichols complained of shortness of breath, the authorities transported him to the hospital where he died three days later of cardiac arrest and kidney failure.

According to an independent autopsy conducted by a forensic pathologist hired by Nichols’ family, the victim “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating, and that his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023,” according to a statement from attorneys Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing the family.

Nichols was originally from Sacramento, California, and was an avid skateboarder who enjoyed photography. He was on his way home from taking pictures of the sunset at a local park, before he was accosted by the officers. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee, just before the pandemic and worked for FedEx. He leaves behind a four-year-old son. He had no criminal record.


The officers involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct, and one charge of official oppression.

On Friday night, protesters took to the streets in major cities across the country. There have been some individuals who have been arrested for vandalism, but so far, there have been no riots.

Narratives aside, it is difficult to look at that footage and not feel outraged – especially for those who resent government abuse. This was not an arrest where officers went a little overboard. From where I sit, this was wholesale murder.

Imagine if this assault was carried out by individuals who were not wearing badges and uniforms. What would we call this? We would call it assault, or even murder.

Unfortunately, this scenario plays out far too often. Thugs with guns and badges are all too eager to abuse their authority–in large part because they know it is unlikely they will ever be held accountable. It is still extremely rare for a law enforcement official to be punished when they engage in acts of tyranny, regardless of the race of the victim.


Yes, there are plenty of officers who would never mete out this type of treatment on a civilian. I’ve spoken to some who were appalled by what they saw in that video.

But the reality is that these situations happen far too often–and they don’t happen only to black citizens. In many cases, officers behave violently towards those they are supposed to protect and serve; these incidents rarely receive much news coverage.

The officers who killed Tyre Nichols were arrested swiftly, which is a positive sign. But many more corrupt officials will get away with overstepping their Constitutional boundaries, if there remains a culture lacking accountability. In the end, Nichols lost his life because five corrupt officers felt justified in beating him to death. It is yet another tragedy for the victim and his family, but also the nation.


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