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Federal Prosecutor Intends 'Diligent' Civil Rights Investigation for Tyre Nichols

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Katie Riordan
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US Attorney for the Western District for Tennessee, Kevin Ritz, speaks at a press conference Jan. 25, 2023.

A federal civil rights probe continues in the death of Tyre Nichols, who was hospitalized and then died days after Memphis Police officers arrested him earlier this month.

Reading from a prepared statement on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz said prosecutors are investigating whether Nichols’ civil rights were violated after law enforcement reportedly stopped him for reckless driving on Jan. 7.

His family’s attorneys say a yet to be publicly released video of the encounter shows officers beating a “defenseless” Nichols and compared it to Los Angeles police officers' assault of Rodney King in 1991.

Ritz, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, has met with Nichols’ family.

“I told them this federal civil rights investigation will be thorough, it will be methodical, and it will continue until we gather all the relevant facts,” Ritz said, also noting that “I want this city to be a place where justice is done.”

He declined to take questions, but said decisions will be based on “facts and the law” and that the investigative process will require more time. While Ritz encouraged people to exercise their “right to be heard” regarding the pending release of video footage from Nichols arrest, he requested any demonstrations remain peaceful.

Local and state authorities have not yet specified when video footage from the scene will be publicly shared but have said they expect it to be before the end of next week.

Memphis officials showed the Nichols’ family and their legal team video on Monday. Attorneys called the footage “deplorable,” “heinous” and lacking humanity as they say officers beat Nichols for three minutes.

MPD has fired five officers for infractions during the arrest ranging from excessive use of force to failure to intervene or render aid.

The department initially reported a foot chase and two confrontations with Nichols before taking him into custody. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition after he "complained of having a shortness of breath," MPD said.

The Memphis Fire Department has also suspended two employees who were involved in the initial care of Nichols until an internal investigation is completed.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting its own examination of the officers’ actions, which could serve as the basis for Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy to bring criminal charges.

At Mulroy’s request, Nichols’ family has agreed the video should be released in a manner that does not compromise the completion of the investigation, but in no more than two weeks’ time.

In his most recent statement on Monday, Mulory said his office is working to expedite the multiple investigations and is “consulting regularly with the City of Memphis about the video's release, which we expect will occur this week or next.”

Katie is a freelance contributor to WKNO. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org