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DOJ opens civil rights investigation into traffic stop that preceded Tyre Nichols’ death

The Department of Justice and FBI announced a civil rights inquiry into a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee, that preceded the death of a Black man.

Tyre Nichols, 29, died three days after being taken to a hospital in critical condition following the Jan. 7 stop. The Memphis Police Department said the case was referred to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation the next day, and an internal investigation was opened into the incident.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Tennessee announced that the FBI’s Memphis field office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have also begun looking into the Nichols’ death.

“As this is an open investigation, we are not able to provide additional comment or release further information at this time,”

Kevin G. Ritz, U.S. attorney for the district, said.

Nichols’ family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and have demanded the public release of body camera and any other surveillance footage from the stop.

“Nobody should ever die from a simple traffic stop — the footage is the only way to discern the true narrative of why and how that happened to Tyre,” Crump said in a statement.

Police said a “confrontation” between Nichols and the officers occurred when they approached his car on Jan. 7. He ran away, and the officers pursued, police said.

Police gave no details about the confrontation. A photo provided by his stepfather, Rodney Wells, showed Nichols in the hospital with blood on his face and what appeared to be a swollen eye.

The police department said in its initial statement the district attorney’s office had been contacted and the state’s bureau of investigation had been asked to investigate. The officers, who were not publicly identified, were relieved of duty pending the outcome, a routine practice.

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Written by Aliyah Collins