Tyre Nichols autopsy says ‘blunt force trauma’ caused death, lawyers say

Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old from Memphis who died after being beaten by police officers during a traffic stop, was killed due to “blunt force trauma,” his family’s lawyers said, citing an official autopsy report which was shared with the family.

Nichols’s death sparked national outrage in January, prompting protests and calls for police reform, particularly after graphic video footage of the beating was released by police. Nichols, who is Black, could be heard screaming for his mother, while he was severely beaten by five police officers, also Black, less than 100 yards from his family home in Tennessee. He died in hospital three days later.

The initial police report of the incident simply said Nichols had “shortness of breath” after a “confrontation” and was hospitalized — a sharp contrast from what the graphic video footage showed. Officers also claimed Nichols had been driving recklessly, and said on film that Nichols had reached for their guns and was high — claims that were not substantiated, and were denied by his family.

Attorneys for his family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, issued a statement Wednesday after they said Nichols’s family had been briefed on his official autopsy results from Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

“The legal team representing the family of Tyre Nichols acknowledges the release of the medical examiner’s report,” they said. “We know now what we knew then. Tyre Nichols died from blunt force trauma and the manner of death was homicide.”

They added that the findings in the report were in line with an independent autopsy commissioned by Nichols’s family in January. “The official autopsy report further propels our commitment to seeking justice for this senseless tragedy,” they added.

Tyre Nichols’s family sues city of Memphis and police department

The Shelby County District Attorney’s office and medical examiner’s office did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from The Washington Post.

The five police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and a number of other offenses. They have pleaded not guilty.

Tyre Nichols remembered as ‘a wonderful son’ who loved skating and sunsets

Nichols was a fervent skateboarder who enjoyed sunsets and photography and was described as a “gentle soul” by his mother, RowVaughn Wells, in the aftermath of his death. The father-of-one was tall but suffered from Crohn’s disease, leaving him weighing only around 145 pounds.

Last month his family launched a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Memphis, its police department, Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, former Memphis Fire Department employees and the officers involved in the brutal beating that followed the traffic stop.

His relatives are seeking $550 million in damages, said civil rights attorney Crump. In other similar police misconduct cases, Minneapolis settled a lawsuit filed by George Floyd’s family for $27 million in 2021, and the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit filed by Breonna Taylor’s family for $12 million in 2020.

The 139-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee describes the attack on Nichols as a “foreseeable product of the unconstitutional policies, practices, customs, and deliberate indifference of the City of Memphis and Chief Davis.” It compares the beating to the 1955 killing of Emmett Till and describes the officers involved as a “modern-day lynch mob.”

A spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department said last month the department would not comment on pending litigation.

Robert Klemko and Mark Berman contributed to this report.

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