Law&Crime legal analysts suggested Saturday that more charges could be coming in the case involving the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers after more than an hour of video footage showed the violent confrontations that led to the man’s death.
Brian Buckmire, a felony trial attorney and Law&Crime host, said he believes more charges are coming against other officers seen standing by as their colleagues kicked, punched, used pepper spray, and failed to help Nichols, 29, on Jan. 7 following a traffic stop for what the officers claimed was reckless driving.
Five Memphis Police Department officers, who are also Black, have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in Nichols’ death three days after the arrest. They were fired from the police department on Jan. 20.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said that other officers are under investigation, and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said two deputies have been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Buckmire said that other officers could face lower-level charges such as failure to prevent a crime and failure to render aid.
“Why didn’t any of the five officers stop the other officers from beating him up?” said Buckmire, reacting to the 67 minutes of the video footage released Friday. “Why weren’t they shocked when this guy used Nichols’ head like a football? Why didn’t they intervene when the baton got pulled out? Why did they continually hold Nichols up like a punching bag?”
Buckmire, a criminal defense attorney in New York City’s Public Defenders Office, said officers are allowed to use proportionate force to effectuate an arrest. But this went overboard.
Buckmire suggested that radio calls between officers as to when they called for paramedics and what codes they used for different emergency levels would explain what procedures the officers did or did not follow.
“Did they continually check in with responders? I’m not hearing that in the body-worn cameras,” he said.
Buckmire also wondered whether at least two officers, whose names can be heard in video footage, had a reputation for being violent.
An officer seen using a stun gun in the early moments of the video footage referred to the names of two officers chasing Nichols down.
The officer with the stun gun is also heard commenting, “I hope they stomp his a–.”
“It’s either one of the most ironic statements in this chain of events – that he would suggest that the thing that the officers do is the thing that they did, even though he’s not at the scene, or he knows them to be officers to get violent with people in these types of situations,” Buckmire said.
Buckmire also said that it appears officers bragged afterward and said the conversation about how it all unfolded could be seen as an effort to get their story straight in front of a camera.
“They start adding pieces to a story that never came up before,” Buckmire said. “Their story is plausible based on blindspots within their body-worn camera, but not based on the overhead camera which I don’t believe they know is there.”
Julie Rendelman, a criminal defense attorney and Law&Crime Network analyst, said the brutality and senselessness of the assault are obvious to anyone who watches the videos.
“In addition, one can’t help but note the complete lack of training on the part of the officers, not only in their inability to properly physically restrain Nichols, but their complete failure to separate their emotions from the job at hand,” Rendelman said. “Instead of following police procedure, the officers’ acts appeared retaliatory, acts of vengeance for Tyre’s perceived failure to comply.”
The video that exemplifies the vengefulness, she said, is the body camera footage of the officer who is accidentally sprayed with pepper spray.
Rendelman said the video shows that officer walking away in pain, only to return to the scene of the assault in what she said appeared to be an explosive state, pull out a baton, and scream: “Watch out, I’m going to baton the f— out of you. Give us your hands….”
“There also seems to be a mob mentality in what we watched, not one of the officers was willing to step away from what was happening and say this isn’t right,” she said.
Rendelman noted it was interesting to see the officers’ behavior after Nichols is restrained and slumped against a car, appearing to be seriously injured.
“Instead of showing concern for his well-being, checking his pulse, giving him aid, several of the officers are laughing about the events that transpired, as though they enjoyed the chase and viewed Tyre’s ‘capture’ as something to feel victorious about,” she said. “Not every individual who applies to be a member of law enforcement is equipped emotionally to perform the tasks required.”
Law&Crime host Linda Kenney Baden, a veteran criminal defense lawyer not linked to the case, questioned why paramedics did not render aid when they first arrived.
“Aid is rendered after about 30 minutes when an ambulance comes into view,” she said in an email Saturday. “Apparently it was waiting on the outskirts?”
The Memphis Fire Department announced Monday that two personnel connected to the incident had been “relieved of duty.”
“Last week, two MFD personnel involved in the initial patient care of Tyre Nichols were relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted,” MFD said in a statement Monday. “This is an ongoing investigation, and we cannot comment further at this time.”
Baden added that the U.S. Department of Justice would monitor the case to see what the state does with its final charging decisions. She expects the state to add additional charges such as conspiracy, aggravated assault, and official misconduct under Tennessee law.
“Now it was clear the cops were pissed because they were so incompetent, they sprayed themselves and were angry and took it out further on Tyre Nichols but motive won’t lead to any different charging decisions because revenge did not involve race,” she said.
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