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5 Black ex-Memphis cops are jailed and charged with murder for Tyre Nichols death

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Prosecutors in Memphis today charged five former police officers with murder in the beating death of Black motorist Tyre Nichols. The recordings of the beating are described as especially horrific and lacking humanity. Those videos are set to be released publicly tomorrow. The five former officers, all of whom are Black, turned themselves in and were jailed. They could all bond out. Reporter Katie Riordan of member station WKNO in Memphis is following this story. Katie, first, what did prosecutors say today about these indictments?

KATIE RIORDAN, BYLINE: Yeah. So the Shelby County district attorney, Steve Mulroy, gave a brief statement to the press. He said that a grand jury indicted all five of the former officers on the same charges earlier today. They include second degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct, among others. Here's District Attorney Mulroy speaking today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE MULROY: While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible.

SHAPIRO: Katie, tell us about what happened that night of the incident.

RIORDAN: Yeah. So this all started with a traffic stop on the night of January 7. These officers, who were part of a special unit, stopped Nichols for what they said was reckless driving. And not long after, the DA said there was an altercation. The officers used pepper spray, then Nichols fled on foot. And there was another altercation a little bit later, where the DA said the serious injuries happened, referring to the beating. Nichols family says this all happened within 100 yards of their home. They say he was just trying to get there. Nichols was taken to a hospital in critical condition, and he died three days later. The DA said...

SHAPIRO: Let's talk...

RIORDAN: Yeah, I was just going to say the DA took a moment to reflect on Nichols today. Loved ones have called the 29-year-old a near perfect son who enjoyed skateboarding and watching sunsets at the park. He was also a dad. He had a 4-year-old boy.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about what's on those recordings that are set to be released tomorrow. Any sense of what they show?

RIORDAN: Well, we haven't seen them yet, but authorities, the family of Nichols and a few others have. And they describe them as appalling. And in discussing those recordings today, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director, David Rausch, simply said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID RAUSCH: This shouldn't have happened. I've been policing for more than 30 years. I've devoted my life to this profession. And I'm grieved. Frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw. It's absolutely appalling.

RIORDAN: These recordings, though, include body cam, dash cam and other surveillance footage. And authorities say the City of Memphis will now release them to the public sometime tomorrow after 6 p.m. Central. They've asked for people to be calm, especially in light of these murder charges being brought. But they are preparing for demonstrations, and they fear some could turn violent.

SHAPIRO: Have the former police officers or their attorneys spoken today?

RIORDAN: They did. Late today, two of the attorneys representing two of the former officers spoke to the media. They said not to prejudge what happened and to wait for all the evidence to come out and that there's, quote, "two sides to every story." The defense team said there was no one there that night that wanted Mr. Nichols to die. Memphis' police chief - excuse me - also released a video statement last night. She discussed what she called the, quote, "horrific circumstances" of Nichols' death and that it was not just a professional failing, but that the incident was, quote, "heinous, reckless and inhumane." We should also mention that the funeral for Tyre Nichols is scheduled for next Wednesday.

SHAPIRO: That's Katie Riordan of member station WKNO in Memphis, Tenn. Thank you.

RIORDAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Katie Riordan
Katie joined the WKNO team in 2019. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org