Memphis Cops Who Killed Tyre Nichols Lied Their Asses Off In Police Report
When Memphis police officers savagely beat Tyre Nichols on January 7, they deliberately crafted a self-serving work of fiction describing the encounter. CNN reports that the initial police report filed in the hours after the fatal traffic stop "suggested he was violent and made claims that were contradicted by video."
The cops whaled on Nichols even after he was subdued on the ground, but the initial police report stated that Nichols "start[ed] to fight" with the cops and at one point grabbed one of their guns — a classic for justifying lethal force against an unarmed suspect. Police videos released last week substantiate neither of those claims.
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It wasn't much of a fight: Five armed cops punched and kicked Nichols repeatedly, which the police report doesn't mention. Instead, the report identifies Nichols as the suspect in an aggravated assault. It might've been all that blood he got on their clean uniforms.
The report describes one of the officers delivering the ass whooping — later charged with second-degree murder — as a "victim."
According to the New York Times, the police claimed that they'd stopped Nichols for reckless driving, and Nichols, "irate and sweating profusely," had refused a "lawful detention" and fought the officers at the scene. There's zero evidence that Nichols ever struck the cops. There's not even much evidence that he was driving recklessly. The videos show that the cops approached Nichols car with their guns drawn, shouting profanities at him before yanking him out of the car. Then the lynching began.
Mr. Nichols, sounding distressed, says “You don’t do that, OK?” and then tries to follow officers’ contradictory and rapid fire commands, which included ordering him to get on the ground while he was already lying down. “All right, I’m on the ground,” he says, before responding to another demand: “Yes, sir.”
But the police continued to be aggressive, with one threatening to fire his Taser at Mr. Nichols and another threatening to “break” his hands. Mr. Nichols pleaded with them to stop, and said at one point, “You guys are really doing a lot right now.”
They were indeed.
I've compared the cops who killed Nichols to wild animals but they were actually quite rational and methodical when it came time to cover their tracks.
Cops lying in official reports is not new. Marvel movies are more grounded in reality than the police report detailing George Floyd's death. CNN reported in 2020 that video often contradicted what police say in reports. This is why the media should stop treating the police as objective sources.
Philip Stinson, a criminologist and professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, conducted research showing that "out of more than 10,000 officer arrest cases, about 6.3 percent involved false reports or statements. About a quarter of those cases involving false reports or statements also involved alleged acts of police violence." Stinson believes the problem is probably even more common than the data reveals.
And this isn't just a difference of perspective. These are often bald-faced lies. Former Balch Springs, Texas, officer Roy Oliver was sentenced to 15 years for the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Jordan Edwards. Oliver had fired into a car full of teenagers leaving a party, but the police report originally claimed that the car had moved "aggressively" toward officers. The body camera footage showed that the car was actually moving in the opposite direction.
Cops lie in police reports to keep their jobs and save their own skins, and in the process they willingly defame the names and memories of the people they've killed, who can no longer defend themselves.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."