January 27, 2023

The Death of Tyre Nichols

Little good can be said about the story of five cops killing a man after a traffic stop.

When a human dies at the hand of another human, it’s a serious event. Sometimes, that person threatened or already took the life of another, and the perpetrator’s death is deserved to either stop the threat or punish the deed. In other cases, a death is shocking and undeserved. Such seems to be the case with Tyre Nichols.

Nichols was a 29-year-old Memphis black man whose car was stopped by police earlier this month. After what by all accounts was a brutal beating and three days in the hospital, Nichols succumbed to his injuries. In part because Nichols was a black man killed by police, the media has played up his death as “driven by racism.” Yet all five Memphis Police Department officers involved were also black. Indeed, most Memphis cops are black, and their chief is a black woman.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden’s Social Justice Department has launched a civil rights probe under Section 242 of the federal penal code. Specifically, that code prohibits law enforcement officers from discriminatory behavior on the basis of “color, or race.” Is Team Biden really arguing that five black men killed another black man on account of his skin color?

Not really. Instead, it boils down to the fact that the assailants in this case were cops, and Democrats have a big problem with cops that they find political advantage in perpetuating. To that point, Biden said in a statement yesterday, “Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.”

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy expounds on the problem here. “Had this been an incident involving young black gang members’ killing another young black man on a random night in the streets of, say, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or St. Louis, the homicide would have not even made a news story,” he wrote. “You can bet your bottom dollar that the Biden Justice Department, far from opening a civil-rights investigation, would have been turning the blindest of eyes (even if the execution had been carried out by something they could portray as an ‘assault weapon’).”

Body cam footage will be released today which seems to us an insane decision given all the media stories almost ghoulishly hoping for violent riots in response. Talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” But unlike the last high-profile death of a black man, the race of the suspect and police was the same.

Political analyst John Hinderaker highlighted the key differences in the Nichols death and that of George Floyd, the latter, with the help of Democrat antagonizers claiming “systemic racism,” ignited the violent “summer of rage” riots and subsequent record surge of violence since.

According to Hinderaker: “There are two obvious differences between the Nichols and Floyd cases. The first is that the Memphis officers clearly killed Nichols. They hit him and kicked him when there was no reason for doing so. The Minneapolis officers, on the other hand, did not clearly kill George Floyd. They did not hit or kick Floyd. They knelt on him on the street, only because he insisted on their doing so. He was so big and strong that they could not make him sit still in the back seat of a squad car, which is all they wanted. It was Floyd who insisted that he lie on the street. The method of restraint that was then used by the Minneapolis officers was approved by the Minneapolis Police Department and many others. It doesn’t kill you. And there was little or no physical evidence of asphyxiation. Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe for 20 minutes before anyone knelt on him. This was because his blood contained a lethal overdose of fentanyl and other drugs. A symptom of that overdose is that the lungs fill up with fluid. Hence Floyd’s repeated statements that he couldn’t breathe, long before he was restrained on the street.”

Memphis PD Chief Cerelyn Davis has described the footage of the crime as “heinous, reckless, and inhumane,” adding: “This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual.”

While pleading with citizens to not react to the video with violence, Davis said, “I expect you to feel outraged by the disregard for basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”

Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, also begged protesters to remain peaceful. “I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets because that is not what my son stood for,” she said.

Biden likewise said: “Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.”

An autopsy determined that “Tyre suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” All five officers were fired last week and charged Wednesday with second-degree murder, which by Tennessee law is simply the “knowing killing of another.”

We’ll certainly know more when the video is released, even though we’ve warned before that video doesn’t always provide important context. In this case, police stopped Nichols for reckless driving and after a brief confrontation he fled on foot, leading to the beating. We don’t know what history Nichols may have had with the police officially or on a personal level with the officers involved. We also don’t know how often these officers dealt with extremely belligerent, violent, and dangerous black men.

We do know — and every cop knows — that any traffic stop can go south very quickly, and that the officer might not make it out alive. We also know that the vast majority of police officers do their duty with honor and integrity all day every day. That doesn’t make the evening news.

On a final note, we can surmise that Nichols would still be alive if he’d cooperated with police and/or if these five officers had responded proportionately.

Update: Body cam footage is herecontent warning.

Read our follow-up here.

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