An autopsy report released on Thursday confirmed that Tyre Nichols died as a result of blunt force injuries to his head after a group of Memphis police officers brutally kicked and bludgeoned him.
Shelby County medical examiners formally declared his death on Jan. 10 a homicide, describing internal bleeding and tearing in Mr. Nichols’s brain, severe injuries to his head and neck, and bruises and cuts all over his body.
The report also found that on the day of the beating, Jan. 7, Mr. Nichols had a blood alcohol concentration of .049 percent — well below the legal limit for driving in Tennessee — despite insinuations from the police that he had been pulled over for driving while intoxicated.
The formal assessment of what killed Mr. Nichols, about four months after a routine traffic stop turned violent, comes as prosecutors are continuing to investigate the beating. The brutality of the attack captured on body camera and surveillance footage, fueled a national outcry and drew scathing criticism over how frequently law enforcement in Memphis used excessive force and intimidation tactics.
Ben Crump and Antonio M. Romanucci, two lawyers representing the Nichols family, released a statement on Wednesday after the family was briefed on the autopsy report and said its findings were “highly consistent with our own reporting back in January of this year.” (Findings from an independent autopsy in January commissioned by the family determined that Mr. Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”)
“Video of this killing stunned the world, and we are once again stunned to see it put into words by the medical examiner,” the lawyers said in a separate statement on Thursday.
In the days after Mr. Nichols’s death, his family publicized a graphic photo of him in the hospital, bruised and intubated, evoking the moment in 1955 when Mamie Till allowed photographs to be published of the open coffin of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, after he was killed by white men in Mississippi.
Five former Memphis officers, all Black men, have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and an array of other charges in connection with the death of Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black FedEx worker and amateur photographer. Officers initially said he was pulled over for reckless driving, though senior police officials later said there was no evidence of that.
Video footage shows that once pulled out of his car, Mr. Nichols tried to comply with a series of threatening, contradictory commands from the officers, telling them he was trying to head home and follow their instructions. Mr. Nichols broke away and ran toward his home, but the officers caught up to him and beat, kicked and punched him, even as he screamed in pain for his mother.
Steve Mulroy, the Shelby County district attorney, said on Tuesday that a sixth former officer, Preston Hemphill, who is white and was fired after he shot a Taser at Mr. Nichols, would not be criminally charged and was cooperating with the investigation. The high-profile Scorpion unit that the officers belonged to has been disbanded.
The supervisor on scene, Dewayne Smith, abruptly retired a day before a scheduled disciplinary hearing, where police officials said they would have recommended he be fired. Body-camera video on the night of Jan. 7 captured Mr. Smith, then a police lieutenant, suggesting that Mr. Nichols was intoxicated and telling Mr. Nichols’s family that he was in custody for driving under the influence.
Mr. Nichols’s family had strenuously denied that charge. The autopsy report confirmed that he was below the legal limit for driving in Tennessee and that there was a trace of marijuana in his system.
The family has also filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department.
(With inputs from NYTimes)
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