January 27, 2023 news on the death of Tyre Nichols

By Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell, Matt Meyer, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Leinz Vales, CNN

Updated 8:38 AM ET, Sat January 28, 2023
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4:37 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

President Biden spoke with the Nichols family by phone this afternoon

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Sam Fossum

President Biden called Tyre Nichols' parents and talked to them for more than 10 minutes.
President Biden called Tyre Nichols' parents and talked to them for more than 10 minutes. (Emily Davies/The Washington Post)

President Joe Biden spoke by phone to the family of Tyre Nichols Friday afternoon, the White House confirmed.

Washington Post reporter Emily Davies posted a video on Twitter of the exchange between the president and Nichols' parents, who were sitting with attorney Ben Crump.

In the short video of what the reporter says was a 10-minute call, Biden can be heard talking about his own family tragedies as Crump holds the phone up to Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells.

The call with Biden came hours before the expected release of video from Nichols' arrest. The family held a news conference in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier Friday.

In a statement, the White House said Biden called the family to "express his and Dr. Biden's condolences" and praise the family for their "courage and strength." 

Biden's phone call was "very personal," according to outgoing White House chief of staff Ron Klain. 

"The president wanted to reach out to Tyre's family as a parent, as someone who's lost a child himself, and express his condolences, express his determination to continue to work on the issue of police reform. But mostly to connect with Mrs. Wells and other members of the family on a personal level. He did have a very personal phone call with them this afternoon," Klain said on MSNBC. 

Klain also emphasized the importance of peaceful protest. 

"I hope people will honor what Mrs. Wells has requested — that people be outraged about this, that people demand accountability and reform but that they do so peacefully," Klain said. 

3:07 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Memphis councilman who has viewed some video of Nichols' arrest says footage is "appalling"

From CNN's Sydney Kashiwagi

After viewing parts of the video of Tyre Nichols' arrest for the first time ahead of its expected release this evening, Memphis city councilman Frank Colvett told CNN it is “as appalling as we have been led to believe.”

Officers will have to answer to their charges when they have their day in court, Colvett said during an interview with CNN’s Abby Phillip. 

“It is sickening, but I want to reassure everyone that the legal process is going to go forward and the accused are going to have their day in court. They are going to be charged as they have been and they are going to answer to these charges,” Colvett said.

“This is not Memphis. This is not indicative of the Memphis Police Department,” he added.

The councilman, who said he watched two of a series of four videos, said it was difficult to say exactly how many, or if all, officers had participated in the beating of Nichols, but that, regardless, the officers’ actions “are clear.”

Asked if the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit, or SCORPION for short, was involved in Nichols' arrest should be disbanded, Colvett urged the public to watch the video first and “process that.” The unit was launched in November 2021.

“If this is indicative of the SCORPION Unit, obviously it will be disbanded,” Colvett said. “What I think we ought to do though is, let's process what we're about to all see and then thoughtfully, logically evaluate all this, and what we need to do and go forward so that we keep Memphis and Memphians safe.”

3:16 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

What we know so far about the Tyre Nichols arrest video that is set to be released publicly tonight

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

Video footage of Tyre Nichols' violent arrest on Jan. 7 will be released on YouTube in four parts — showing the initial stop, the stop near Nichols’ home and body-worn camera footage of the individuals at the scene — sometime Friday evening, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said.

CNN has obtained portions of the police scanner audio leading up to the 29-year-old Black driver's arrest. Portions of the audio are inaudible, but a brief part of the conversation between an officer and the dispatcher can be heard.

An officer is heard saying, “We got one Black male running,” and giving instructions to “run that car registration tag and see what’s the address,” followed by what sounds like Nichols in distress.

It’s not clear where this audio fits in the sequence of the incident or which officer is speaking.

Family attorneys watched the video on Monday and described it as “heinous.” Nichols was tased, pepper-sprayed and restrained, family attorney Ben Crump said, and compared it to the LAPD beating of Rodney King.

Crump described the video as “appalling,” “deplorable” and “heinous.” He said Wells, Nichols’ mother, was unable to get through viewing the first minute of the footage after hearing Nichols ask, “What did I do?” At the end of the footage, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother three times, the attorney said.

Tyre Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, was unable to get through viewing the first minute of the footage, according to Attorney Benjamin Crump.
Tyre Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, was unable to get through viewing the first minute of the footage, according to Attorney Benjamin Crump. (Ariel Cobbert for CNN)

Nichols fled from the police, according to Rodney Wells, his stepfather, because he was afraid.

“Our son ran because he was scared for his life,” Wells said Monday. “He did not run because he was trying to get rid of no drugs, no guns, no any of that. He ran because he was scared for his life. And when you see the video, you will see why he was scared for his life.”

In timing the video's release, Davis told CNN Friday that “we thought about schools, we thought about businesses and we felt like Friday afternoon if there were individuals [who] decided they wanted to peacefully protest, at least other individuals would have gone home, schools would be out and it wouldn’t be as disruptive as it would have been if we released it on … on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“A lot of the people’s questions about what exactly happened will, of course, be answered once people see the video,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN’s Laura Coates Tuesday night, noting he believes the city will release enough footage to show the “entirety of the incident, from the very beginning to the very end.”

Five Memphis Police Department officers, who also are Black, were fired after an internal investigation and are facing criminal charges, including second-degree murder.

2:17 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Tyre Nichols' mother says she hasn't had time to grieve. "I'm still dealing with the death of my son"

RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols' mother, speaks on Friday at Mount Olive Baptist Church.
RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols' mother, speaks on Friday at Mount Olive Baptist Church. (Ariel Cobbert for CNN)

Tyre Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells gave an emotional speech at a Friday news conference, saying she is still processing her son's death, and hasn't had time to grieve.

"I still haven't had time to grieve yet. I'm still dealing with the death of my son. This was not supposed to happen. My son was supposed to be with me today," she said.

Wells said she will always know that she will be with him because he had a tattoo of her name on his arm. "My son loved me to death and I loved him to death," she said, "And so this is very difficult for me."

"No mother should go through what I'm going through right now. No mother. To lose their child to the violent way that I lost my child," she added.

“My son was a beautiful soul. He was a good boy. No one’s perfect, but he was damn near,” she told reporters.

Ahead of the video release of Nichols' arrest, she asked parents to not let their children watch it.

“I’ve never seen the video, but what I’ve heard it’s very horrific, very horrific,” she said. “And any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it.”

Watch here:

CNN’s Paradise Afshar contributed to this reporting

5:14 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Tyre Nichols' family attorney calls for disbanding of Memphis police's SCORPION unit

Attorney Antonio Romanucci speaks about the "SCORPION Unit" at a news conference in Memphis.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci speaks about the "SCORPION Unit" at a news conference in Memphis. (Ariel Cobbert for CNN)

Tyre Nichols' family attorney Antonio Romanucci called on Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis to disband the "SCORPION Unit" immediately, and asked chiefs across the country to review their respective units and disband them as well.

"The saturation units are given whispered impunity ... in order to carry out their design. They can't collect guns, they can't find stolen cars unless they unwittingly trap innocent people in this web. Therefore, we are asking chief Davis to disband this SCORPION unit effective immediately. Immediately," he added.

These units "wind up oppressing the people that we care about the most — our children, our young sons and daughters, who are Black and brown, because they are the most vulnerable," Romanucci said, accusing the unit of "creating a continual pattern and practice of bad behavior."

Some background: At least two of the officers charged in Nichols’ death were members of the Memphis Police SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods) unit, according to their own attorneys. The units are not unique to Memphis.

Romanucci added: "The intent of the SCORPION unit has now been corrupted. It cannot be brought back to center with any sense of morality and dignity, and most importantly trust in this community."

"How will the community ever, ever trust a scorpion unit?" he asked. "The intent was good. The end result was a failure, and we must recognize that and do something about it."

He reiterated: "I call on all chiefs in this country to review their saturation units, to review their special squad units, and disband them, because they can easily become corrupted when they are told they are whispered in their ear, 'act with impunity.'"

2:21 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Nichols' stepfather says family is "satisfied" with charges against officers and urges peaceful protests

Tyler Nichols' stepfather Rodney Wells speaks about the family's call for peace once the video is released.
Tyler Nichols' stepfather Rodney Wells speaks about the family's call for peace once the video is released. (Ariel Cobbert for CNN)

Tyre Nichols' stepfather Rodney Wells reiterated the family's call for peaceful protests following the expected release tonight of the video showing his son's traffic stop that resulted in murder charges for five former Memphis officers.

"We're very satisfied with the charges," he said during a news conference with the family's attorneys. "More importantly, we want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance, we want peaceful protests, that's what the family wants. That's what the community wants." 

"Please, please protest but protest safely," he said.

"The family is very satisfied with the process, with the police chief, the [district attorney]. They acted very, very quickly in this case. We are very, very pleased with that," he added.

12:54 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Family attorney urges police unions to speak up after Nichols' death

An attorney for Tyre Nichols' family, Antonio Romanucci, called on police unions to make statements after five former Memphis officers were charged with murder in Nichols' death.

"We want to know where are the unions? Where does the Fraternal Order of Police stand on this? We have not heard from you," he said during a news conference Friday in Memphis. 

He continued: "We want to hear from you. We want to hear you say that what happened to Tyre, what happened to this family, should never ever happen again, that you condemn the brutality, the savagery, the terrorism, the heinousness, the vulgarity of these actions and we should all stand for that. You don't have to be a police union. We all have to just have a soul and a heart."

2:24 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Tyre Nichols' family wants his legacy to spur police reform, attorney says 

Attorney Benjamin Crump speaks at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Memphis on Friday.
Attorney Benjamin Crump speaks at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Memphis on Friday. (Ariel Cobbert for CNN)

Ben Crump, an attorney for the family of Tyre Nichols, said his parents "want reform with these charges" against five former Memphis police officers in the death of Nichols.

Nichols mother, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, want "reform that we can try to prevent some of these hashtags of Black and brown people being unjustly killed by police," Crump said while standing beside them at a news conference in Memphis Friday.

Crump called for the creation of a "Tyre law" that could "emphasize the importance of police officers ... to have a duty to intervene when they see crimes being committed — even if those crimes are being committed by their fellow officers."

"That will be the appropriate legacy that we give Tyre Nichols; if we really think we want justice for justice, it's not justice for one family, it's justice for all of us, that's want RowVaughn is praying for," he said.
1:05 p.m. ET, January 27, 2023

Family attorney: Swift action against former officers in Nichols' death should be a "blueprint" going forward

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Ben Crump, the attorney for Tyre Nichols' family, applauded the Shelby County district attorney office for bringing charges against the five former Memphis officers involved in Nichols' death.

"We applaud the district attorney for bringing charges against the five officers for second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Very important charges against these five officers," he said in a press conference on Friday.

The action taken against the former officers provide a blueprint for America in cases of police brutality, he added.

"We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time, any officers, whether they be Black or White, will be held accountable. No longer can you tell us we got to wait six months to a year even though we got a video with evidence of the excessive force in the crime," he said.

Crump listed the names of other people killed by law enforcement who were not afforded the same timetable.

“Tyre deserved it. Tamir Rice deserved it. Ronald Greene deserved it. Alton Sterling deserved it. Eric Garner deserved it,” he said.

“We have a precedent that had been set here in Memphis, and we intend to hold this blueprint for all America from this day forward,” the attorney added.

CNN's Amanda Watts contributed reporting to this post.