• Press Release

Amnesty International USA Calls on Memphis Police Department, Congress to Take Accountability for Systemic Failures that Led to Death of Tyre Nichols

January 27, 2023

Responding to the announcement of charges brought against Memphis police officers in the death of Tyre Nichols, and body-camera footage released by Memphis Police Department today, Justin Mazzola, Researcher at Amnesty International USA, said:

“On January 7, Tyre Nichols was stopped by Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers, allegedly for driving erratically. Immediately during the traffic stop, officers approached with their firearms drawn and violently extricated Tyre from his vehicle. As Tyre attempted to comply with their orders to go to the ground and get an explanation of what he did wrong, he was threatened with a taser pressed against his leg and officers threatening to ‘knock him out’ while he tried to reason with the officers. In fear for his life from the excessive amount of force used against him already, he fled the scene of the traffic stop on foot, likely in an attempt to reach his family’s home just a few blocks away. 

When officers finally caught up with him, he was subjected to a heinous amount of violence including being held down as he screamed out for his mother, repeatedly punched, kicked, pepper sprayed and struck with a police baton multiple times by at least four MPD officers – at one point being stood up by two officers as a third struck him in the head multiple times with a closed fist before he collapsed to the ground and was handcuffed.

No officer intervened to stop the violence or render any sort of aid or treatment to Tyre after dragging him, handcuffed, across the pavement and propping him up against a police vehicle – instead using that time to look for the eyeglass lens of one of the officers involved in the beating and the other officers’ dropped equipment. While two emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene to render aid after approximately five minutes, he remained variously propped against the vehicle and rolling over to the ground for at least 25 minutes before an ambulance arrived to transport him to the hospital. 

Tyre was then transported to a local hospital in critical condition, where he died three days later on January 10. 

The video shows truly appalling, heinous, violent, and troublesome acts of inhumanity, words first used by Tyre Nichols’ family and their representatives to describe what they saw earlier this week before the videos were released to the public.

No one should fear for their lives and end up being killed during a traffic stop. Just as people should not be killed for allegedly selling loose cigarettes like Eric Garner, getting into a car accident like Keenan Anderson, being a 12-year-old child playing in the park with a toy gun like Tamir Rice, allegedly using counterfeit currency in the case of George Floyd, or for simply responding to their door being broken down in the middle of the night like Breonna Taylor. People should not live in fear for their lives when they interact with the police – but for too long, police have ignored their duty to protect Black and Brown communities and have instead denied them a sense of security and their humanity.

It is imperative that the Memphis Police Department not see this as simply the actions of five individual police officers. Rather, the MPD must acknowledge this as a systemic issue and conduct a top-down review of their policies on issues such as the use of unmarked police cars to conduct traffic stops, training on foot pursuits, and the use of force – including the use of chemical irritants, tasers and restraints. 

People have taken to the streets to protest the actions of the police officers responsible for Tyre Nichols’ death. State and local law enforcement must respect and protect the rights of those who wish to rightfully voice their concern over the treatment of Tyre Nichols and others who have been injured and killed at the hands of the police. Tennessee legislators must also use this opportunity to review and repeal recently passed vague laws that impact protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly. 

Amnesty International USA also urges Congress to once and for all pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to create a national standard on the use of force, which would require de-escalation by officers and limit the use of deadly force, which should be used as a last resort, not first response.”


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