MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun and Dakarai Turner sat down with Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the family of Tyre Nichols, on Tuesday, January 24 to hear from both sides of the investigation into the death of a man who died in police custody three days after being critically injured during a confrontation with Memphis Police officers.
FOX13 also reached out to the Memphis Police Department to request an interview with Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis.
That request was denied, MPD saying, “At this point we are not conducting any interviews. All statements and information will be released via our social media platforms.”.
In a one-on-one interview with Dakarai Turner, Ben Crump started off by saying that video of the confrontation between Nichols and the officers involved shows that those officers practiced none of the de-escalation techniques that police are required to perform.
“I think that when people see the video they will find it appalling,” Crump said. “They will see that the escalation, the continuous escalation by the police officers is just troubling. You look at that video, you ask, ‘Where was the de-escalation when Tyre said I just want to go home?’ You keep waiting for one of the officers to say ‘Hey, hey. We don’t need to do all of this.’”
Crump also said that he and Nichols’ family reached an agreement with procedures to not share too many details of that video in the hopes of securing a fair and unbiased investigation.
“Mrs. Wells (Nichols’ mother) said that she didn’t want anything to mess the investigation up,” Crump said. “She didn’t want there to be any technicalities. She wanted justice.”
During the family’s press conference on January 23, Crump echoed a statement made earlier by the Memphis Police Department (MPD) and Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy that the video would be released to the public within two weeks of that press conference. That was a slight change from the original statement put out by MPD and Mulroy that the video would be released soon after Nichols’ family had a private viewing.
“What I want to do is leave people to see the video for themselves and they have to determine if this was them or one of their loved ones how would they characterize it,” Crump said. “They’re going to release the video in a week or two. That’s what was told to the family. That’s what was promised to the family.”
For the first time, Crump also confirmed that Tyre Nichols was handcuffed during the confrontation “for what seems like a very long time,” according to Crump.
“The question really becomes why did they not attempt to render aid? But again, that’s what everybody can see in the video, and they can make determinations for themselves,” Crump said.
Five officers involved in that confrontation with Nichols were fired after an internal investigation by the Memphis Police Department. Speaking to Dakarai Turner, Crump said that Nichols’ family was calling for charges of first-degree murder against those officers. But, the attorney said that he has faith that Shelby County Steve Mulroy’s office will return the “correct” charges.
“What we have said is that we want there to be accountability,” Crump said. “I believe the prosecutors, based on the evidence, will make the determination on what the correct charges will be. And, obviously, the family, they want the most. Wouldn’t you want the most if this was your child?”
On a follow-up question from Dakarai Turner, Crump said that he expects there to be different charges against different officers.
“I think they will look at the actions of each individual officer and they will accordingly charge appropriate charges,” Crump said. “Will some of them be charged with some degree of murder or homicide? I think they will.”
As far as Nichols’ autopsy, Crump said he expects that report to be released soon.
“We expect the findings of that independent autopsy to be released sooner rather than later because it’s important for transparency’s sake and for the peace of mind of Mr. and Mrs. Wells and Tyre’s family to know the actual cause of death and not have to wait six months to a year for the medical examiner to release that information,” Crump said. “As soon as those results are completed, the family will make them public.”
Less than an hour later, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy joined FOX13′s Good Morning Memphis to speak exclusively with anchor Valerie Calhoun about the investigation.
Mulroy explained the delay in releasing the video, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the integrity of that investigation.
“The public needs to understand this. In any investigation like this, not just this one but as a general matter, you want to conduct all of your key witness interviews before the video is released. So, for example, suspects may tailor their statements to law enforcement to what they saw on the video. We don’t want that. And, even a non-suspect witness, may end up seeing the video and then testifying to what they remembered from the video as opposed to what they actually witnessed themselves. Either way, you don’t want that to happen in any investigation, let alone this one.”
Mulroy did say, however, that his office is working on getting all of those key witness interviews done as quickly as possible and that he expects the video to be released to the public either this week or next week.
When FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun asked Mulroy his reaction after viewing the video, the district attorney characterized it as “distressing.”
“I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Tyre Nichols,” Mulroy said.
The grand jury which would be responsible for any indictments against those officers was already scheduled to meet Tuesday, as it normally does. Mulroy would not confirm if the grand jury was discussing charges against those officers during its Tuesday meeting but did once again promise that his office was moving “as quickly as we can”.
“I can’t stress this enough. We are moving as quickly as we can on this case. We understand that it’s in the public interest for us to get to the next stage of this case as soon as possible. Just stay tuned and be patient,” Mulroy said.
When asked about the possibility of those officers facing murder charges, Mulroy said that that is why he called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in and handed the case over to his newly-created, independent Justice Review Unit which, the district attorney said, was designed to be separate from law enforcement and the rest of the district attorney’s staff.
“I’ve also given them this task in officer-involved deaths to make an independent assessment of what kind of charges should be filed. So, I think the public will have great confidence that there is an objective, independent evaluation going on and, like I said, we’ll be making these decisions as soon as we can,” Mulroy said.
When FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun asked if there was any evidence to prove that Nichols was under the influence at the time he was stopped by police,
Restricted by the ongoing investigation, the district attorney could not answer many questions which may have provided clarification on what happened that day.
“Very soon, the video will be released and everybody will be able to draw their own conclusion and see for themselves,” Mulroy said. “I think a lot of the questions you’re asking will be answered by the video.”
But Mulroy, a former law professor at the University of Memphis, did say that he welcomed the participation of federal agencies which have opened a civil rights investigation into Tyre Nichols’ death.
“I welcome the participation of our federal partners,” Mulroy said. “I’m working very closely with U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz. We’re in constant communication. I do welcome their participation. I think this is the kind of incident that warrants a federal investigation.”
Crump had previously compared the video of Nichols’ confrontation with Memphis Police to that of Rodney King. When FOX13′s Valerie Calhoun mentioned that to Mulroy and asked him how he approached his conversation with Nichols’ family when viewing that video, Mulroy said that he could only show compassion for the family.
“This is the worst part of any DA’s job,” Mulroy said. “Meeting with the families of persons who have been killed and they had just seen the video for themselves when I met with them. All I could tell them was to express our sincere condolences. To lose a loved one is terrible. To lose a child is even worse. To lose a child to violent circumstances, especially when law enforcement is involved is even worse beyond that. We just told them that we expressed our sympathy and that we were doing everything we could to work as quickly as possible to see that justice will be done in this case.”
When the case is looked at in the future, Mulroy ended the interview by saying that he hopes Nichols’ death brings about a lesson for police in the way officers interact with the community.
“Certainly we hope that some lessons to be learned going forward and perhaps it will lead to a broader conversation about the need for police reform and the utility of de-escalation training and things of that nature.”
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