Family of Tyre Nichols files $550M civil lawsuit against city of Memphis over death by police


The family of Tyre Nichols has filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Memphis, the police department and several individuals over his death at the hands of police officers

The attorney for the family, Ben Crump, said the lawsuit is seeking $550 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. Crump said during a press briefing Wednesday outside the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in Memphis: “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.”

The suit was filed by Nichol’s mother RowVaughn Wells and the Tyre Nichols estate. The 139-page, 25-count civil complaint 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 lawsuit names the city of Memphis, Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, individual police officers, and three Memphis Fire Department employees. It 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 — are among the defendants named in the lawsuit. Preston Hemphill, a police officer who was fired but not charged, is also named in the lawsuit. In addition, 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, were also named in the suit.

Editorial credit: Christopher V Jones /