Rodney Wells, center, stepfather of Tyre Nichols, listens to speakers at a prayer gathering at the site where Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers, and later died from his injuries, in Memphis, Tenn., Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP Photo)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — On the eve of Tyre Nichols ′ funeral, his family plans to gather Tuesday with the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump at the historic Mason Temple in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech the night before he was assassinated, to speak about the latest developments in the case.
Two more Memphis police officers were disciplined and three emergency responders fired in connection with Nichols’ death, officials said Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill, who is white, and another officer whose name wasn’t released, have been suspended, police said.
Five Black officers were fired and charged last week with second-degree murder and other offenses in Nichols’ Jan. 7 beating and his death three days later. Video of the beating was released publicly last week and showed that many more people failed to help Nichols beyond the five officers accused of beating him to death.
Six officers were part of the so-called Scorpion unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Other Memphis residents who say they also were “brutalized” by officers in the unit will speak, according to a statement from Crump.
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“It’s a step in the right direction, but due to the severity of the situation it’s not enough,” said Damion Carrick, 44, participating in a protest Monday evening at Shelby Farms Park, of the investigations and discipline. “You got a man dragged out of his car, beaten senseless, to a pulp and nobody doing nothing about it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Nichols’ death was the latest in a long string of early accounts by police about their use of force that were later shown to have minimized or omitted violent and sometimes deadly encounters.
Memphis Police Department officers used a stun gun, a baton and their fists as they pummeled Nichols during the nighttime arrest. Video shows Nichols running away from officers toward his house after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was heard calling for his mother and seen struggling with his injuries as he sat helpless on the pavement, video footage released Friday showed.
The five officers chatted and milled about for several minutes as Nichols remained on the ground, but there were other authorities on the scene. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies also have been suspended without pay while their conduct is investigated.
Nichols’ older brother, Jamal Dupree, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday that he feels guilty because he wasn’t there to protect his younger sibling.
“My brother, I’m 99% sure that my brother has never gotten into a fight before. And the one time he got into an altercation with other humans, we wasn’t there to protect him. My brother was trying to cooperate with them,” Dupree, who lives in California, said of the Memphis officers.
Dupree said he hasn’t watched the police video.
“I already knew how they treated him because I’ve seen it all over the world,” Dupree told CNN. “Police brutality is nothing new. I already knew they treated my brother like an animal. They treated him like he was nothing. I don’t have to watch the video to know that.”
He said he has seen reports about his brother and thinks other people are learning about who he was as a person.
“I think people really know my brother did not deserve this,” he told CNN. “He was not that type of person. Yeah, he was just a good guy around the board. … We want justice.”
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Nichols, have accepted an invitation to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week at the Capitol. They will attend with Rep. Steven Horsford, a Nevada Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to Vincent Evans, a spokesperson for the caucus.
Nichols’ funeral is set for Wednesday at a church in Memphis.