The report released today, May 4, 2023, by the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center ruled the death of Tyree Nichols a homicide, according to NBC News.
On January 7, Memphis police officials reported that Nichols was involved in a traffic stop resulting in injury as he fled from police and was assaulted. However, the “assault” resulted in extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating, according to preliminary findings from an autopsy by a forensic pathologist hired by the family. Today, the Tennessee Regional Forensic Center revealed he died due to blunt force injuries to the head.
The family’s attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci reaction to the report was, “The legal team representing the family of Tyre Nichols acknowledges the release of the medical examiner’s report, the contents of which are highly consistent with our reporting back in January of this year,” the attorneys said. “We know now what we knew then.” “The official autopsy report further propels our commitment to seeking justice for this senseless tragedy.”
Seven Memphis police officers were fired after the young man’s death, as the city’s top police official, Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, described the conduct as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” Consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of the fatal encounter, confirmation to his mother’s previous statement in a news conference in January, “He was less than 80 yards away when they murdered him. Yes, I said murder… because when I walked into that hospital room, my son was already dead.”
The death of Tyree Nichols sparked outrage and has posed a new question about the supervision of the officers involved in the homicide of the 29-year-old man. As five officers were charged with second-degree murder, all pleading not guilty in February 2023, no charges will be brought against the remaining officers to date. However, all have been relieved of duty.
Since the not-guilty pleas were entered regarding all five officers, The New York Times has noted that not one officer was a supervisor. For years, police officers have patrolled the streets with less supervisory oversight than their counterparts in larger cities due to staffing, recruitment, and retention issues. In larger departments across the county, it is expected there be one frontline supervisor, typically a sergeant, for every six or seven officers. However, police chief Davis stated that in Memphis, “the ratio is about one supervisor for every ten officers.”
According to The New York Times, it was reported in February 2023 Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum based in Washington, has had numerous conversations with police commanders around the country about why there appeared to be no supervisors immediately on the scene in Memphis. Mr. Wexler has stated, “This is highly unusual – having that any officers in a specialized unit with no supervisor on scene.” Mr. Wexler refers to the “Scorpion Unit,” the specialized street crime unit that has since been disbanded after five of its officers have been charged with murder.
With extensive research, data was not readily available regarding how many supervisors there should be or if there is a guideline for departments to follow. Therefore, for the time being, that question will go unanswered.
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