Initial Memphis police report falsely claims Tyre Nichols ‘fought’ officers
A leaked incident report on Tyre Nichols’ arrest and fatal beating by Memphis police officers contains glaring inaccuracies that were later exposed after the release of bodycam and surveillance footage.
The report, written two hours after Nichols’ beating on 7 January, claimed that the 29-year-old was “irate” and refused lawful detention, tried to start a fight with officers, and also attempted to take an officer’s gun, during an initial traffic stop.
Video evidence released on 27 January told a very different story, showing officers swarming Nichols’ car and dragging him out, shouting contradictory commands and using pepper spray and a taser on him while he was trying to comply.
Bodycam footage shows one officer threatening to break Nichols’ hands, and then warns he is going to “knock your ass the f**k out.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Nichols says as officers shout contradictory orders at him, telling them he is just trying to get home.
A photograph of the report was obtained and posted online by Memphis talk show host Thaddeus Matthews, and Shelby County District Attorney Steven Mulroy on Monday confirmed he has the same account from police, according to the New York Times.
Mr Mulroy last week charged five Memphis police officers with second-degree murder. Two others, Preston Hemphill and an unidentified officer, have since been placed on administrative leave.
Three Memphis Fire Department employees were fired on Monday, and two sheriff’s deputies have been placed on leave.
The report goes on to describe the police officers’ second encounter with Nichols on the corner of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove, about 800 metres from where his car was pulled over.
In the arresting officers’ version of events, Nichols again resisted arrest by pulling an officer’s duty belt and grabbing another’s vest, and continued to ignore their orders.
It dispassionately states that one officer used pepper spray again while another struck Nichols several times in the right arm with his baton.
“After several verbal command (sic), Detectives were able to get suspect Tyre Nichols into custody.”
Footage from a pole-mounted police security camera and body cam footage captured the brutal assault as a defenceless Nichols is punched in the head by two officers while lying on the ground.
Nichols is repeatedly screaming in pain and calling for his mom.
One of the officers shouts “give me your hands boy,” as Nichols attempts to shield his eyes from another round of pepper spray.
A third gets out of a patrol car and delivers two forceful kicks to Nichols’ head, and a fourth then arrives and strikes him with a baton several times in the back and head.
Nichols is then pulled up by two officers, while another delivers five haymaker punches to his head. At no point does Nichols appear to be resisting arrest.
EMTs arrive at the scene, and wait 22 minutes to render aid to Nichols.
As Nichols is handcuffed and slumped against a patrol car, going in and out of consciousness, the officers can be heard on the bodycam comparing notes about what led to the beating.
“He had his hand on my gun, that motherf****er was going for it,” one says.
The police report claimed that Nichols was initially stopped on suspicion of aggravated assault.
Police would later claim in a statement hours after he was taken into custody that they stopped Nichols for reckless driving.
That first public statement claimed that two “confrontations” occurred before Nichols was taken to hospital after complaining of “shortness of breath”.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has said that a review of the available camera footage had been unable to find any evidence of reckless driving.
The report goes on to state that Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells turned up to the scene and told officers that her son had been out with friends, and that she suspected they may have spiked his drink.
That contradicted Ms Wells’ statements in an interview with CNN last week, when she described being blocked from seeing her dying son in hospital by the police.
On Monday, Mr Mulroy said the district attorney’s office was “looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident,” including those who filed the paperwork.
The photograph of the report posted by Mr Matthews shows it appears to have been entered on the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office internal portal.