The family of Tyre Nichols, a Black Tennessee man who died after been beaten by five police officers, has sued the city of Memphis, individual officers and emergency medical personnel involved in his case.
Lawyers for Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court in Memphis.
The $550m civil suit is in response to the death of Nichols, who attorneys representing the Nichols’s family say was tortured at the hands of Memphis police department officers.
“This landmark lawsuit is not only to get the justice for Tyre Nichols in the civil courts, but it is also a message that is being sent to cities all across America who have these police oppression units that have been given the license by city leaders to go and terrorize Black and brown communities,” said attorney Ben Crump during a Wednesday press briefing outside the circuit court clerk’s office in Memphis.
The 132-page lawsuit includes 25 counts against the city of Memphis and police department including “deliberate indifference to serious medical need” and allegations of excessive force, ABC News reported.
The lawsuit also accuses the Memphis police director, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, of starting a crime-suppression unit called Scorpion that officials said would target repeat violent offenders in high-crime areas.
The five officers charged with beating Nichols were members of the unit, police have said. The unit was disbanded after the beating.
Attorneys for the Nichols family are also suing the Memphis police department for intentional infliction of emotional distress for lying to Wells about her son’s condition.
“This has nothing to do with the monetary value of this lawsuit, but everything that has to do with accountability,” said Wells during Wednesday’s press conference.
“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.”
Nichols died in January, three days after he was brutally beaten. Police said he was suspected of reckless driving when he was arrested on 7 January but no verified evidence of a traffic violation has emerged. Davis has said she has seen no evidence justifying the stop or the officers’ response.
It was the latest in a string of violent encounters between police and Black people that have spurred protests and renewed public discussion about police brutality.
The officers have been charged with second-degree murder.
The new lawsuit names as defendants the city of Memphis, Davis, the five officers who have been fired and charged, another officer who has been fired but not charged, and an additional officer who retired before he could be fired.
It also names three Memphis fire department employees who were terminated after officials said they failed to render aid to Nichols as he lay on the ground, struggling with his injuries.
The Associated Press contributed reporting
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