A seventh Memphis Police Department employee has been fired for his role in the fatal arrest of Tyre Nichols, while an eighth police employee retired before it was recommended he lose his job for his part in January’s events — which have reignited the national discussion over race and policing, the city’s chief legal officer said Tuesday.
The city on Wednesday also plans to release about 20 hours of video and audio related to the arrest of the 29-year-old motorist who died three days after his violent arrest, the chief legal officer Jennifer Sink told city councilmembers. It will add to the already-public footage from police body cameras and a surveillance camera that has given the world a detailed look at the police pummeling Nichols.
Officials have named six officers who have already been fired in the case, and five of them now face second-degree murder charges. Those five officers’ own body cameras recorded them beating Nichols, propping the badly injured 29-year-old in handcuffs against an unmarked police car, and then ignoring him as he struggled to stay upright. They have pleaded not guilty.
The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office has said its investigation is still ongoing, as well.
In all, 13 members of the Memphis Police Department have been administratively charged in the Nichols case. Three were suspended and two had their charges dismissed, Sink said. Out of the four fire department personnel who were administratively charged, three were fired and one was suspended, Sink continued. This means that the employees have faced discipline.
The identities of the additional police and fire employees who are facing discipline could come as soon as Wednesday, when officials also plan to start releasing investigative records and charges.
Police said Nichols was suspected of reckless driving when he was arrested on Jan. 7, but no verified evidence of a traffic violation has emerged in public documents or in video footage. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis has said she has seen no evidence justifying the stop or the officers’ response.
The six officers previously fired for their roles in Nichols’ arrest and beating were members of Memphis Police’s Scorpion Unit, an anti-crime task force that residents have accused of violent tactics. Davis initially defended the unit after Nichols’ death but later disbanded it.
Discipline for those involved in the arrest has extended to the Memphis Fire Department and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, where two deputies have been suspended. The fire department said two of them “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” while the third, a lieutenant, remained in the fire engine with the driver.
On Tuesday, some city councilmembers spoke in opposition to the ability of a police employee to retire before his scheduled disciplinary hearing. A hearing was still held, at which the police employee didn’t show up.
“There was a determination that had he not retired, this individual would have been terminated,” Sink said, adding that the hearing was technically put on pause.
Sink said there should be discussions about whether changes are needed to the department’s process.
Nichols’ beating is the latest in a string of violent encounters between police and Black people that have spurred nationwide protests and renewed an intense public discussion about police brutality.
Nichols’ family, their lawyers, community leaders and activists have called for changes within the Memphis Police Department concerning issues related to traffic stops, use of force, improving transparency and other policies.
Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee and Travis Loller in Nashville contributed to this report.