Tyre Nichols’ mother files $500M civil lawsuit against city of Memphis, police over his death: Attorney


(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — Tyre Nichols’ mother has sued the city of Memphis and members of the police department over his death following a violent traffic stop in the city, court records show.

Her attorney, Ben Crump, said the lawsuit is seeking $500 million for the “torture” of Nichols, 29, who died three days after he was beaten by police during a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Body camera footage of the altercation showed officers striking Nichols repeatedly.

“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,” Crump said during a press briefing Wednesday outside the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in Memphis.

The 139-page, 25-count civil complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court, includes allegations of excessive force and “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs,” and called the traffic stop “unreasonable.”

It also claims the police department failed to properly train its officers, including those in the now-deactivated SCORPION unit that was involved in Nichols’ arrest.

“The City of Memphis, through the Memphis Police Department, maintained a custom of tolerance for SCORPION Officers’ unreasonable search and seizure of individuals, use of excessive force, and the violation of the Fourth Amendment prior to the violation of Tyre Nichols’ constitutional rights and death,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also claims that Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, suffered emotional distress due to “negligent acts and omissions” by officers following the incident and that police made “false representations” to her regarding her son’s condition.

“This has nothing to do with the monetary value of this lawsuit, but everything that has to do with accountability,” Wells said during Wednesday’s briefing. “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.”

“How many more Tyres is this going to happen to? We just can’t have this,” she added.

The complaint, which is demanding a jury trial, lists Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and the five now-former officers charged in connection with Nichols’ death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — among the defendants. Preston Hemphill, a police officer who was fired but not charged, is also named in the lawsuit.

Also named in the suit are emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, Memphis Fire Lt. Michelle Whitaker, who was also in the first ambulance to arrive, and DeWayne Smith, who was a police lieutenant who retired before he could be fired.

ABC News has reached out to the city of Memphis for comment.

The Memphis Police Department told ABC News it does not comment on pending litigation.

All five officers who were directly involved in the beating have been charged with second-degree murder. The officers all pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance on Feb. 17.

Seven other police officers were terminated following the incident, according to city of Memphis chief legal officer Jennifer Sink.

The incident has also sparked a Department of Justice review of the Memphis Police Department’s use-of-force and de-escalation policies.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.