A new George Floyd case? Five police officers were charged and jailed on Thursday for murder following the death in early January of an African American, days after an “appalling” arrest in the southern United States, authorities said. These police officers from Memphis, a large city in Tennessee, all African-Americans, are the subject of several charges, including murder, assault and kidnapping, prosecutor Steve Mulroy announced at a press conference. .
On January 7, the police – since dismissed – wanted to arrest Tire Nichols, 29-year-old African-American, for a traffic violation. As the officers approached, a “confrontation had taken place” and “the suspect had fled”, explained the police. Caught up, Tire Nichols was finally arrested but complained of having difficulty breathing and was hospitalized. He died three days later.
The details of this arrest are not yet clear: a video of the facts exists, but has so far only been shown to the relatives of the victim and their lawyers. According to them, “the police beat him to the point that he was unrecognizable”. “It is a pure and simple beating, without interruption, of this young man for three minutes”, declared Me Antonio Romanucci.
US President Joe Biden called for calm on Thursday as protests mount over the fatal arrest. “As Americans mourn, the Justice Department investigates, and authorities continue their work, I join Tire’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Anger is understandable, but violence is never acceptable,” Joe Biden said in a statement, also calling for a “prompt, full and transparent investigation” into his death.
The Floyd family lawyer
During the press conference on Thursday, the authorities avoided describing precisely the course of events, referring to the images. But what happened was “inadmissible” and “criminal” and “should not have happened”, hammered David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, saying he was “shocked” and “disgusted” by what he saw. “In a word, it’s absolutely appalling. »
Lawyers for the victim’s family, including the famous Ben Crump – who had represented the family of George Floyd – welcomed the indictment of the police. This news “gives us hope as we continue to demand justice for Tyre,” they commented. Thursday, evoking his meetings with those close to Tire Nichols, prosecutor Steve Mulroy painted the portrait of an “almost perfect son”. “A jovial and happy person, who loved skateboarding,” he said.
The five officers charged were fired last week. The internal police investigation had shown that they had used excessive force. Other officers are still under investigation.
The officers involved are “directly responsible for the physical abuse committed on Mr. Nichols,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said Wednesday, saying it was “not just a professional error, but of a lack of humanity.
“This act was heinous, irresponsible and inhumane. »
The video of the arrest will be made public on Friday after 6:00 p.m. local time (midnight GMT Saturday). “I expect you to be outraged” by seeing these images, admitted Cerelyn Davis. Deeming the organization of demonstrations also likely, the police chief called not to “incite violence or destruction”. The case finds a particular echo in a country still marked by the death of George Floyd, in May 2020, and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, against racism and police violence, which followed. And the drama has reignited the debate on police violence in the country.
VIDEO. The images of the arrest of George Floyd that revolted America
Prosecutor Steve Mulroy thus hoped that this case “could allow broader discussions on the need for police reform”. The president of the civil rights organization NAACP, Derrick Johnson, for his part called on elected members of Congress to watch the video of the arrest and then to act. “We can name all the victims of police brutality, but we can’t name a single law you passed to address the problem. »