January 30, 2023

Federal authorities announced Wednesday they are launching a civil rights investigation into the actions of Memphis police after a 29-year-old Black man died three days after a traffic stop by officers.

On Jan. 7, Tyre Nichols was arrested after officers stopped him for reckless driving, Memphis police said. According to police, a confrontation occurred as officers approached him, and Nichols subsequently ran from the scene. Police also referenced another “confrontation” between Nichols and officers before he was ultimately caught and arrested.

“Afterward, the suspect complained of having a shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called,” and Nichols was taken to a hospital in critical condition, police said. On Jan. 10, he “succumbed to his injuries,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported last week, without describing the nature of those injuries.   

Tyre Nichols
A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him on Jan. 17, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols was killed following a traffic stop with Memphis Police on Jan. 7. He died three days later, on Jan. 10.

Adrian Sainz / AP

Nichols’ death prompted protests this past weekend. 

Kevin G. Ritz, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced Wednesday that a federal civil rights investigation has been launched into the incident.

“Last week, Tyre Nichols tragically died, a few days after he was involved in an incident where Memphis Police Department officers used force during his arrest,” Ritz said in a statement. “State authorities have publicly announced that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating. In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office, in coordination with the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has opened a civil rights investigation.”

Meanwhile, the Memphis Police Department is conducting its own internal administrative investigation into potential policy violations by the officers who arrested Nichols, and expects that process will be completed by the end of this week, the department said in a news release Sunday.

“After reviewing various sources of information involving this incident, I have found that it is necessary to take immediate and appropriate action,” Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said in a statement. “Today, the department is serving notice to the officers involved of the impending administrative actions.”

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