Tyre Nichols died from blunt force trauma to the head from Memphis police beating, autopsy shows

May 5, 2023, 5:00 AM

Tyre Nichols died from blunt force trauma to the head and his death has been ruled a homicide. Photo credit: Provided by Ben Crump

 (CNN) — Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who was violently beaten by Memphis police officers in January, died from blunt force trauma to the head and his death has been ruled a homicide, his autopsy results revealed Thursday.

The Shelby County medical examiner’s report, obtained by CNN affiliate WMC, shows Nichols had tearing and rupturing in his brain, and suffered cuts and bruising all over his body — including his neck and torso.

Nichols was repeatedly punched and kicked by five Memphis Police Department officers on January 7 following a traffic stop and brief foot chase. He required hospitalization after the encounter and died three days later.

A toxicology report performed on Nichols detected the presence of chemicals associated with marijuana and alcohol use, the report says. Nichols’ blood alcohol content was 0.049, which is below the legal limit of 0.08 in the state of Tennessee.

CNN has contacted the Shelby County medical examiner to obtain a direct copy of Nichols’ autopsy report.

The Nichols’ family attorney, Benjamin Crump, released a statement on Thursday, saying the video of his killing “stunned the world, and we are once again stunned to see it put into words by the medical examiner.”

“The utter brutality of the deadly beating that Tyre suffered is once again highlighted in these official autopsy results,” the statement continued.

The five former Memphis police officers, who are Black, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on February 17 after being indicted on seven counts each, including second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct.

Former Memphis officer Preston Hemphill, who is white, was fired and charged departmentally — not criminally — over policy violations, the agency said. The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office told CNN on Tuesday that it will not pursue criminal charges against Hemphill.

The five charged officers were part of the department’s specialized SCORPION unit, which was launched in 2021 to take on a rise in violent crime in Memphis. Police said the unit was permanently deactivated shortly after Nichols’ death.

Memphis police under DOJ investigation

Body camera videos and surveillance footage from Nichols’ arrest were released on January 27, publicly revealing the severity of the beating, and sparked widespread condemnation from residents and police officials and, the county prosecutor said, contradicting what officers said happened in the initial police report.

The video prompted renewed national debate on justice in policing and reform, shaking a nation accustomed to videos of police brutality — especially against people of color. It also spurred protests and vigils in Memphis and other major US cities.

The US Department of Justice is reviewing the Memphis Police Department. The DOJ also said it would separately review specialized units across the US and create a guide for their use in addition to its review of the Memphis PD.

Last month, the Nichols family filed a federal $550 million lawsuit against the city of Memphis, its police department and what the suit said were “unqualified, untrained, and unsupervised” officers assigned to the SCORPION unit involved in the encounter with Nichols, CNN previously reported.

The civil lawsuit, filed by lawyers for Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said the fatal beating was the “direct and foreseeable product of the unconstitutional policies, practices, customs, and deliberate indifference of the City of Memphis” and its police officials.

“This has nothing to do with the monetary value of this lawsuit,” Wells told reporters in April when the filing of the lawsuit was announced.

“But everything that has to do with accountability,” she continued. “Those five police officers murdered my son. They beat him to death and they need to be held accountable along with everyone else that has something to do with my son’s murder.”

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Tyre Nichols died from blunt force trauma to the head from Memphis police beating, autopsy shows