Five Memphis Cops Charged In Death Of Tyre Nichols | Crooked Media
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January 27, 2023
What A Day
Five Memphis Cops Charged In Death Of Tyre Nichols

In This Episode

  • Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second degree murder for the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died days after he was violently arrested on Jan. 7th.  Footage of the incident is set to be released Friday night — and lawyers for Nichols’ family, who have seen the video, compared it to the infamous police beating of Rodney King in 1991.
  • And in headlines: Israeli forces killed 9 Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the College Board said it will revise its pilot AP course on African American Studies, and Virginia Democrats defeated three Republican attempts to restrict abortion in the state.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, January 27th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What A Day. On today’s show, the accused gunman in Monday’s mass shooting in Northern California reportedly confessed to the crime. Plus, the fight over teaching African-American history is flaring up in Florida. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, let’s talk about the latest news out of Memphis, where five former police officers have been charged for the killing of Tyre Nichols. In case y’all haven’t heard, Nichols was a 29 year old Black man who loved skateboarding, photography and sunsets, according to his family. He died on January 10th, three days after a traffic stop by officers from the Memphis Police Department. Before we get into the most current updates on the case, I’m going to detail what we know about the order of events that led to his death. According to the police, it starts on January 7th at approximately 8:30 p.m. local time when officers pulled over a car for suspected reckless driving. They then say a confrontation occurred between the officers and the vehicle’s driver, later identified as Nichols, who then fled on foot. The police say they apprehended him and that another confrontation occurred that resulted in Nichols arrest. I’ll note here that the details on what exactly these quote unquote, “confrontations” were was not immediately made public. What we do know is that an ambulance was called to the scene of the arrest after Nichols complained of shortness of breath, and he was then transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition. Three days later, he died due to injuries sustained in the, quote, “use of force” incident with officers. Of note all five officers involved here are also Black men. Five days after Nichols’ death, the officers were taken off duty as a local investigation began. Days after that, a federal investigation was declared. And then on January 20th, the officers were named and fired due to violating, quote, “multiple department policies.” Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’s, quote, “initial patient care” were also fired. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s a story we’ve heard too many times. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So can you talk to us about how Tyre’s family and the broader community have responded to his death? 


Tre’vell Anderson: As you can imagine, they want some answers. In the days after his death, Tyre’s family hired Ben Crump as their attorney. Ben Crump obviously is a name many of us are familiar with. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: As he’s represented the families of an unspeakable number of victims of police brutality over the years, from Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown to Breonna Taylor to George Floyd. And he’s been voicing on the family’s behalf a desire for the body camera and surveillance footage of the traffic stop to be released. On Monday the family actually got a chance to view footage of the incident and one of their lawyers described the footage saying, quote, “He was a human pinata for the police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for 3 minutes.” The violence Tyre endured is being compared to that of Rodney King’s infamous beating by police in 1991. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s horrific. And you don’t even need to see the video to know that. On Wednesday night, Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis released a video statement about this case. What did she have to say? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, let’s take a listen. And, you know, I want you to pay close attention to the tone of her message here, because to me, it’s very telling. 


[clip of Police Chief CJ Davis] This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane and in the vein of transparency when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves. I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video. I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results. But we need to ensure our community is safe in this process. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So as you just heard, in addition to the descriptions from the family’s lawyers, the footage will be bad, right? Which is obviously one of the reasons why formal charges were announced against the officers yesterday. The charges include second degree murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnaping. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, you don’t hear a police chief say something like that very often, if at all in this country. And if they are, something must have gone severely, severely wrong. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So I want to look ahead to what we can expect, you know, in the coming days. So the footage from the night that these officers stopped Tyre Nichols is expected to be released sometime tonight after 7 p.m. eastern. The Shelby County district attorney confirmed that this footage includes police body camera footage and possibly cell phone and home surveillance video as well. Activists are not happy about the delay in releasing this footage. They had been expecting it to come out after the Nichols family viewed the footage on Monday. But the DA’s explanation is that the investigators in this case wanted to finish up as many interviews with the officers and the witnesses as possible before they made this footage public in order to avoid any chance that people would change their statements based on the footage and what they saw. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I get that we want them to be able to do their jobs to the fullest extent. But we should also note the timing, right, of this release. It’s happening on a Friday night usually where you put things that you don’t want people to pay attention to, you know? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Yeah. To me, the timing is very telling. Releasing anything after hours on a Friday screams that you don’t want people to see it. You are trying to prevent it from getting the attention that it would otherwise. But I think that they are very well aware at this point that whether they release it at two in the morning or in primetime, this would be getting a lot of attention and that footage will be truly horrific. The Memphis police chief pretty much said so herself. In her statement she also indicates that she expects people to be incensed by what they see. They expect people to be in the streets protesting not just the brutality of these officers, but the brutality of a system that allows this to happen repeatedly to Black and Brown people in particular. She acknowledged that this is pretty much guaranteed it to happen. We heard that in the clip. Her ask was that people exercise their First Amendment rights peacefully. And that call was echoed by President Biden himself, who said that he understood the outrage and was joining Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. And his statement from yesterday, he also called for meaningful police reforms. We should note that Congress failed to come to an agreement on a package of reforms called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act back in 2021. Last year, Biden signed an executive order with new use of force rules for federal law enforcement. But those rules don’t apply to local law enforcement. And it’s clear here that there is still so much left to be done. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, it’s always interesting to me when these situations happen and folks make calls for peace as if peace is a logical response to violence. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Because it does not seem to be to me. You know, we’ve covered stories like this– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –many times on this podcast, um and it never gets easier, but they always call for peace. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You know why they call for it, but it’ll never be the right response. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, you mentioned the Shelby County D.A. earlier. I want to circle back to that because I know there’s some interesting context around him specifically in this position. Tell us what we need to know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So our co-host Josie Duffy Rice flagged this for us, and I thought it was really important to share. So from 2011 up until last year, Republican Amy Weirich was the D.A. in Shelby County. She was at the center of this outrageous case where she brought criminal charges against a Black woman who had a prior felony conviction and tried to register to vote. Tennessee has really confusing rules for restoring voting rights. And this woman’s probation officer actually signed a form saying that she was eligible to register. So she quite literally had to sign off. But the case attracted national attention and outrage and Weirich ultimately lost her bid for reelection last year. It was a big win for criminal justice reform advocates and activists. And it also gave us the new Shelby County D.A., Democrat Steve Mulroy. The D.A. is the person who decides whether or not to prosecute in this case he is prosecuting. But had this happened a few months prior, while Weirich was still in office, this situation might look very different. There may not have been any charges against these officers, let alone the murder charges and the other ones that we are seeing against them now. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I’m glad there is some sort of accountability being put forth in this case and so glad that that Republican Amy Weirich is not overseeing this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, what a nightmare that would have been. I mean, this is already a nightmare, but even worse. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We will be following this story very closely over the weekend, as should all of you. Uh. And we’ll be back with more on Monday. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We have an update on Monday’s deadly mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California. In a jailhouse interview with a local TV reporter, the accused gunman who worked at the two farms where the attacks took place reportedly admitted to the crime, which left seven people dead and another person injured. He said he did it because he was bullied by coworkers, forced to work long hours, and also believed he was suffering from a mental illness. The San Mateo County D.A. told the L.A. Times the suspect’s comments were, quote unquote, “consistent” with what he already told investigators. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer representing him. Meanwhile, state officials are investigating the two sites for possible labor and workplace safety violations. And just six months ago, another shooting broke out at one of those farms, though no one was hurt in that incident. Separately, authorities in L.A. County are still trying to determine a motive for Saturday’s deadly shooting in Monterey Park. So far, they have not been able to draw a connection between the 11 deceased victims and the gunman behind that attack, who was also dead. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the city of Jenin yesterday, marking one of the deadliest attacks in the occupied West Bank in nearly two decades. Palestinian officials said nine people were killed and 20 others were injured in the shootout, while Israeli military officials claimed that six, quote unquote, “terrorists” were killed in what they described as an operation targeting Islamic Jihad militants. The Palestinian Authority said on Thursday it would end its security coordination with Israel in the wake of the violence. Israeli military forces have relied on their relationship with the authority to carry out raids in the West Bank, though similar moves in the past only lasted for a few months. This all comes just weeks after members of Israel’s new far right government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have pledged violence against Palestinians and called for the annexation of the West Bank. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The College Board, which sets the standards for advanced placement courses at high schools nationwide, said it will revise its pilot course on African-American studies before it releases the official framework on February 1st. It comes after three Florida high school students said they plan to sue Governor Ron DeSantis, whose administration earlier this month barred the course from being taught in the state. Florida’s education commissioner even called the original proposal, quote, “woke indoctrination masquerading as education.” The College Board said the decision to make revisions wasn’t influenced by Florida’s decision, and no states or school districts have had a chance to see the actual framework just yet. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I hope the schools and I mean the states, whoever needs to agree, are down for it, because that sounds like a class that a lot of people could benefit from and a facet of history that you don’t learn about a lot– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –in school as it is. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: California Representative Adam Schiff is now the second person officially vying for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s job. Schiff, who was booted off the House Intelligence Committee in a power move by Speaker Kevin McCarthy just days ago. Power move makes that sound cooler than it was. It really was not uh made the announcement on Twitter yesterday, he touted his experience with taking Republicans to task and leading former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. 


[clip of Adam Schiff campaign ad] After all that, I wish I could say the threat of MAGA extremists is over. It is not. Today’s Republican Party is gutting the middle class, threatening our democracy. They aren’t going to stop. We have to stop them. And that’s why I’m running for the U.S. Senate. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I really can’t with that soundtrack. But I mean– 


Tre’vell Anderson: I was just about to say. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –he’s a nice man. [laughter] He’s a nice man but I’m sorry that music’s got to go. Earlier this month, Representative Katie Porter threw her hat into the ring. And Representative Barbara Lee is also expected to join the race, which technically hasn’t even started yet. That is because Feinstein, who is 89 years old, has not said whether or not she will seek reelection. Maybe give the senator a head start, though this race sounds like it’s going to be hard on the knees. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Listen, she should just go sit down somewhere. Go ahead and retire. It’s okay, love. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oof. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve done enough. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, if I was 89, I’m sorry. You know what I’d be doing? Watching the original Gossip Girl, just reruns every day in my house. That’s what I’m going to be doing. Looking back on the glory days, the heyday of good TV. Not trying to be in the Senate. Please. [laughter] 


Tre’vell Anderson: Virginia Democrats shit canned [laugh] Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal for a 15 week abortion ban yesterday handing a huge victory to abortion rights advocates in the state. The Virginia State Senate’s Education and Health Committee overwhelmingly voted to block Youngkin’s bill, along with two other anti-abortion bills, one of which would have banned the procedure later in pregnancy, while the other would have banned abortions outright, with little to no exceptions. Virginia Senate Majority Leader Louise Lucas tweeted a photo of herself putting documents in a trash can with the caption, all of Glenn Youngkin’s bills to limit abortion rights come to my committee. I put them straight into my trash can. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I love it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: If that isn’t pro-life, then why does it give me so much of it? 


Priyanka Aribindi: [laugh] It’s a good question. [laughter] And you know, I was wondering where you were going with shit canned, really came full circle there. Love it. [laughter] And finally, some close encounters of the giant flying rock kind. Last night at 7:27 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, an asteroid the size of a large moving truck whizzed past South America’s southern edge in one of the closest recorded approaches by a known near-Earth object. The object came about 2200 miles from the Earth’s surface, bringing it within the orbit of Earth’s many human made satellites. The asteroid, known as 2023 BU by scientists and close friends, was initially discovered last Saturday, not by NASA, but by amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, who spotted it from an observatory in Crimea, which is under Russian occupation. NASA quickly assessed that 2023 BU would not hit the earth, but even if its trajectory did take it towards a collision, given its relatively small size, our nifty atmosphere would have burned it right up. Reassuring. While it scooted past Earth without any trouble, its proximity to our gravitational pull was enough to re-orient its trajectory around the sun, making BU 2023 kind of like the girl who studies abroad and comes back calling every train the tube. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] You know, Priyanka, I’m old enough to remember a movie called Don’t Look Up, in which everybody was like, oh, it’s absurd. It’s not real. Next thing you know, we got stuff falling out of the sky. Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I know. It begs the question, what did they know and when did they know it? I don’t know. Just asking. [laughter] 


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to talk about how the brightest minds of the House GOP are coming together to waste everyone’s time. [music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Friday, WAD squad. And this week we are debuting a little segment we are calling Rent Free. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, yes, we love new segments. 


Priyanka Aribindi: New segments, good vibes. We’re into it. You may have heard us mention this in every single episode we have ever made, but in addition to this pitch perfect podcast, you hear five days a week, we also put out an equally hilarious newsletter every single night. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, but if your eyes are just too damn tired from Doomscrolling to even think about opening your email, we are here to make it a little easier to get you up to speed on what you’ve been missing in your inbox. Joining us this week is Crooked associate editor Julia Claire. Hello. Thanks for being here. 


Julia Claire: Hi. Thank you guys for having me. Excited to be here speaking and not typing. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Well, we’re thrilled to have you. So thank you for stopping by. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So, Julia, it’s been a little busy out there in the world, with Trump about to make a comeback on Facebook and George Santos still somehow holding a job in Congress. But what’s the one headline that’s been living rent free in your brain this week? 


Julia Claire: Well, [laugh] you know, it has been a messy week in the House of Representatives. I think it is only going to get worse. But the thing that’s been living rent free in my head is a lot of the new sham investigation subcommittees that have been created. There’s one called the uh Subcommittee for the Weaponization of the Government. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 


Julia Claire: Um. Which is really fun and flirty. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. 


Julia Claire: And there’s another one. This is really the heart of the matter. The subcommittee investigating the government response to the coronavirus pandemic. Because guess who’s on that panel? Guess who Kevin McCarthy selected? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t even want to guess. [laughing]


Julia Claire: COVID conspiracy theorist to the stars, Marjorie Taylor Greene. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course, knew it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh my god. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I was like, that’s too big of a guess for that to be my first guess. I can’t. We got to start small. But uh no, they just went for it. 


Julia Claire: Yeah, you could say that that’s the theme of this entire GOP caucus, is they just went for it. Um. [laughter] The entire–


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Julia Claire: –subcommittee is stacked with COVID, quote unquote, “skeptics” like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who literally still this week is calling it the, quote, “so-called pandemic”. So we stan conspiracy theory girlboss and most famously, she compared mask requirements to the, quote, “abuses suffered by Jews during the Holocaust.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. I tried to block that one out of my brain. 


Julia Claire: So anyways, that’s the gal who’s on the [laughing] committee.


Priyanka Aribindi: Cool. So it sounds like they’re doing some hard hitting stuff. [laughter] Can’t wait to see what comes of this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Just absurd. 


Julia Claire: I think it’s really a top tier use of government time and resources, and only the most serious legislators are getting the keys to the kingdom and that’s beautiful. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Something to aspire to for us all, I suppose. [laughter] Well, that was Crooked associate editor Julia Claire as she works tirelessly through this entire news cycle to bring you What A Day’s nightly newsletter, which, if you haven’t already, you can subscribe to at Julia, thank you so much for joining us. 


Julia Claire: Thank you so much Priyanka, Tre’vell. Excited to be here. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Narrowly avoid a collision with the Earth, and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just anti-choice bills that go straight in the trash like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And get a better aim asteroids. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you’re going to have to do better than that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Or maybe don’t do better than what you’re currently doing. [laugh] You know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You’re fine. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Your performance is just what we need. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producers are Lita Martinez, Michael Martinez, and Sandy Girard. Production support comes from Leo Duran, Ari Schwartz, and Matt DeGroot with additional promotional and social support from Ewa Okulate, Julia Beach and Jordan Silver. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.