Tyre Nichols case will remind people of Rodney King, Ben Crump says

Attorney spoke to ABC News' Linsey Davis about the "reprehensible" video.

January 27, 2023, 1:03 PM

Five former Memphis police officers were charged with murder Thursday in the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died three days after a traffic stop.

Body camera footage of the incident, which has already been viewed by Nichols’ family and their attorneys, has been described as “heinous,” “violent” and “appalling.” Officials are set to release the footage to the public on Friday.

ABC News’ Linsey Davis spoke with Nichols family attorney Ben Crump, who said the Nichols family is “relieved” the officers will be held accountable. He also addressed that the five officers are Black, saying it's not the police officer’s race that's a "determining factor" in whether they will engage in excessive force.

DAVIS: We're joined now by attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Nichols family. First, thank you so much for joining us. Let's get your response to the arrests and the charges against these five officers and how the family is reacting to those actions tonight.

CRUMP: Well, as the family is relieved that they have confirmed that these officers will face criminal accountability in a court of law for what they did to Tyre Nichols. It's still painful for his parents and his siblings and their entire family, but they are a little relieved to know that there will be criminal charges that are being brought.

DAVIS: Officials are planning to release video of Tyree's violent beating tomorrow evening. I know that the family has seen that video already. You've seen that video. Can you give us just a sense of what we might see in that video?

CRUMP: As I said, Linsey, it is going to remind many people of Rodney King. You know, and tragically, unlike Rodney King, Tyre doesn’t survive. I mean, it's so difficult to watch the video, because even while he's being brutalized, you still see the humanity in Tyre — that he was a good kid. Even though the police said all kind of profane things to him. He still is asking in a calm voice, he's like, “What did I do? And I just want to go home.” And you just kept waiting for one of those officers, Linsey, to say, “OK, OK guys, we got him. Let’s just calm down. Let's just de-escalate.” But they never do.

DAVIS: The Shelby County DA said today that there are multiple sources of video and that, “people will be able to see the entire encounter from beginning to end.” Can you describe what the sources of video are? Is this all police bodycam footage?

CRUMP: No, it's multiple videos. And thank God for video, because you see everything that happened, and there's audio that is reprehensible to match what we see with our eyes. And it's just tragic, because you see Tyre. I mean, he's getting assaulted and battered, and it's just troubling on so many levels that they continue to escalate. They never de-escalate. And it's just heart-wrenching at the end when he calls for his mother three times. I mean, heart-wrenching cries for his mother. And then he never says another word again.

RowVaughn Wells, center, mother of Tyre Nichols arrives at a news conference with civil rights Attorney Ben Crump in Memphis, Tenn., Jan. 23, 2023.
Gerald Herbert/AP, FILE

DAVIS: Any concerns for you about how this case has been handled to this point by the Memphis police and the Shelby County DA's office.

CRUMP: Where, well, the families are relieved that they terminated the officers in a swift manner. And they also are thankful that the charges were brought today. And everybody who talked about him, everybody we've met talked about him just being a gentle soul who, you know, loved to skateboard, loved photography, loved to take pictures of sunsets as often as he could. His family and his coworkers at FedEx said he was just an incredible person, and he was focused on being a good father for his 4-year-old son.

DAVIS: You, of course, Mr. Crump, have represented countless families in recent years who've lost loved ones during police encounters. Does the fact that these five officers involved in Tyre's death were all Black? Does that change the dynamics of this case at all?

CRUMP: What I found is in my almost 25 years of doing this civil rights work in America is that, it is not the race of the police officer that is the determining factor of whether they are going to engage in excessive use of force. But it is the race of the citizen. And oftentimes it's Black and brown citizens who bear the brunt of this police brutality. We don't see our white brothers and sisters who are unarmed encounter this type of excessive force at the hands of police.

DAVIS: Attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family. We always appreciate you talking with us. Really appreciate your time and insight.

CRUMP: Thank you, Linsey.

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