The U.S. attorney investigating the death of Tyre Nichols, a Tennessee man who was beaten by police while being arrested earlier this month, promised to conduct a “thorough” and “methodical” investigation.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin Ritz said at a brief press conference on Wednesday that the investigation “may take some time” as these types of federal investigations often do, but decisions will be made based on the facts and the law.
He said he has told Nichols’s family that the investigation “will be thorough. It will be methodical, and it will continue until we gather all the relevant facts. As with any other federal investigation, we will go where those facts take us.”
Memphis police officers stopped Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, on Jan. 7 for alleged reckless driving. The department said the day after that they confronted Nichols before he ran and another “confrontation” occurred ahead of his arrest.
Nichols said he was experiencing shortness of breath and was hospitalized before dying on Jan. 10.
His family and their attorneys on Monday viewed the body camera footage from the officers who arrested him. Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said the video showed that Nichols was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained after he was pulled over.
Attorneys said he was treated like a “human piñata” and compared the incident to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King.
Nichols’s family has accused police of causing him to suffer a heart attack and kidney failure as a result of the beatings.
Five members of the Memphis Police Department who were involved in the traffic stop were fired on Friday for excessive use of force and failing in their duties to intervene and render aid following a department investigation.
Ritz said his office is working closely with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to conduct the investigation.
He announced a federal civil rights investigation into the incident last week. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has also launched a probe.
Crump and the family’s other attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said in a release on Monday that the legal team had their own independent autopsy conducted on Nichols by a forensic pathologist. They said the autopsy’s preliminary findings show Nichols had “excessive bleeding” caused by a “severe beating” and that the injuries are consistent with what they viewed from the officers’ body camera footage.
Ritz said he wants the public to express its “right to be heard” in response to Nichols’s death, but that it should be done peacefully.
“I want this city to be a place where justice is done,” he said. “The United States is committed to following the facts and the law, guided by principles of justice every step of the way.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.