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Inside Politics

Nichols Family, Attorneys Speak In Memphis. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 27, 2023 - 12:30   ET



BEN CRUMP, TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: To reform. We want this duty to intervene to become Tyre's law, just like they have Cariol Horne's law in the state of New York. And for those of you who don't know that, just ask me and Attorney Earl Moore talked this morning, Cariol Horne was a black police officer. She witnessed one of her fellow officers brutalizing a black citizen, and she intervened and stopped him and got assaulted herself when she tried to stop him.

But because she intervened, she was retaliated against, and she was terminated and had to fight almost a decade long battle to get justice because they had no duty to intervene for police officers before her courageous act. And the issue is, we have to make it official. We have to make it documented. We got to put it on the books. We have to have notice that police officers, you have a duty to intervene when you see a crime being committed.

You expect the people to say something. Well, why don't you all show us how to do it, you all go first when you see a crime being committed, and then people in our community will feel a lot more safe when they go intervene and say, we saw a crime when you want us to tell what we saw. Well, you tell what you saw, too. Amen?

CROWD: Amen.

CRUMP: And so this is what Ms. RowVaughn and Rodney and Jamal and Kiwana and Michael, his siblings, that's what they want. They want reform with these charges. Now, before I bring attorney Tony Romanucci up to give some remarks before we bring the family. We want to underscore just two more points.

Number one, the fact that this unit had engaged in this type of brutality before, this unit had engaged in excessive use of force against black citizens before. And Attorney Romanucci and I plan to make sure that is pointed out in a civil case on behalf of Tyre Nichols. Because as citizens have reached out to us and the family about this happened to them, there's a brother who said four or five days before this happened to Tyre, that same Scorpion unit confronted him while he was in this car going to get pizza.

And he said that they used all kind of profanity against him. They threw him on the ground, talking about where the drugs and where the weapons. And he was like, Tyre, put a gun to his head. And this brother, after he survived this ordeal, he said he called to the police department twice, to Internal Affairs, twice. And they never responded to him.

If they would have responded to him, we might not be here today. And so that's why we plan on making sure any citizen in Memphis who had to face the brutality of this Scorpion organized crime unit, I guess, as their distinguished will come forward.

We had an older gentleman, right, Mr. Reid, 66 years old, said he was confronted by this unit and he was brutalized and he had pictures of his injuries. And so it was foreseeable. It was foreseeable that something tragic like this was going to happen when you have police officers given, as Attorney, Romanucci and our legal team discussed, not just immunity, but impunity to tramp on the constitutional rights of people who looked a certain color, who lived in a certain community.


And so we believe that this was a pattern in practice, and Tyre is dead because that pattern in practice went unchecked by the people who were supposed to check that. And I think we're so thankful to Chief Davis. Now, her leadership through this ordeal should be applauded as an example for other police chiefs and leadership.

But we agree with her when she says policy means nothing if you have a culture. If that culture is rotten, you can make all the policy in the world, because the culture does not respect policy. We have to make sure that the coaching not only respects the policy, but the coacher respects the community. And that is what we have to do if we're going to give Tyre Nichols the proper legacy.

And then finally, we think about as Ms. RowVaughn said, they came to her house and they told her she couldn't go to the hospital. And it wasn't until 4:00 a.m. in the morning that the doctor called her. They told her that her son had been pepper sprayed and tased and that he was nearby, never told them where they were at. And so we believe that we cannot allow anybody to ever cover up crimes against our loved ones in our community.

It happens far too much in America. And we have to have this conversation over and over and over again until it stops. We have to talk about this institutionalized police culture that has this unwritten law that you can engage in excessive use of force against black and brown people. We have to have this conversation because this institutionalized police culture that suggests you can do this to people in certain communities who look a certain way cannot be tolerated.

It doesn't matter if the officers are black officer, a Hispanic officer, or a white officer. It is the culture that allows them to think they can do this to Tyre, that they can do this to Keenan Anderson in Los Angeles, California, that they can do it to Byron Williams in Las Vegas.

I mean, to come and attack a black man just for riding on a bicycle, it is the culture. And we have to call out this culture every time we get a chance. We're going to call it out? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.


CRUMP: Call out the culture.

CROWD: Call out the culture.

CRUMP: Call out the culture.

CROWD: Call out the culture.

CRUMP: Call out the culture.

CROWD: Call out the culture.

CRUMP: Call out the culture.

CROWD: Call out the culture.

CRUMP: We have to call out the culture. And that has to be the conversation. Or those hashtags will continue to piled up quicker than we can keep up.

And the only way, this is just the first steps to getting justice for Tyre Nichols, the only way we get for justice for Tyre Nichols is the institutionalized police culture that is on trial today. And the only way we get justice for Tyre Nichols is if we call out this institutionalized police culture so we can get full justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols. Justice for Tyre Nichols.

Thank you all.

And now you're going to hear from a great lawyer who fights for civil rights all across America, who I'm so proud to fight with yet again on the front line, my brother, Attorney Tony Romanucci, will greet you, and then we will continue on with the press conference.


ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: Thank you again, ladies and gentlemen. I do have a few points to cover with you today. We were just here before you a few days ago. But we have to lead from the top because I really do want to talk to you about these criminal charges, the gravity of the criminal charges, and what it means not only to these officers, but to this city, state, and our country.

Remember, this supposedly emanated from a traffic stop which turned deadly. And we talked about what we saw in the video when were here before you Monday, that these were some of them were unmarked squad cars. These were not all officers in uniform only partially of them were. You can call this the Scorpion unit, if that's what you want to call it. But what these really are, because I do happen to have subject matter expertise on these cases, these are suppression units. These are saturation units. And what they really turn out to be are oppression units. And what they do is they 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.

Make no mistake, Tyre Nichols, at all times, was an innocent victim on that night. He did nothing wrong. He was caught up in a sting. This Scorpion unit was designed to saturate under the guise of crime fighting. And what it wound up doing instead was creating a continual pattern and practice of bad behavior.

As Ben told you, there are others who are out there who have had similar experiences. And I will dare say that when we get all the records that we need, that we will see a significant delta, a disparity between the use of force of the Scorpion unit and that of the regular Memphis Police Department and statistically, on average, across the country.

And that is because these saturation units are given whispered impunity. Ben said it, not immunity, but 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.

CRUMP: Immediately. Immediately.

ROMANUCCI: 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? And that's what we are asking for. The intent was good. The end result was a failure. And we must recognize that and do something about it.

And 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.

Now, one of the charges is kidnapping. We're going to talk about the second degree murder, but think about the weight of a kidnapping charge being brought against officers who are wearing a badge, a shield, carrying weapons on their duty belt, acting under the color of law.

When has that happened in this country? And part of the definition of kidnapping in the Tennessee statute is that it's something that I'm going to give another analogy to. When you think of 9/11, what's the word that comes to mind? Terrorism. When you think of other heinous acts that have happened in churches across this country, any act of terrorism, what does that instill in you? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition that we are dealing with here on this kidnapping charge. It is terrorism. It was designed to terrorize the victim.


This young man, by definition of the law in this state, was terrorized not by one, not by two, but by five officers who we now know that the charges brought actually state that they acted in concert with each other. They acted together as that pack of wolves to inflict harm, terrorism, oppression of liberty, oppression of constitutional rights, which led to murder.

I just talked about all the charges in nearly one sentence. That is how this case is going to be defined. This was an intentional act once those officers were there. They knew their actions were going to cause death. And indeed it did. Sadly, it did. We will take questions at the end of this, but I do want to pick up one thing that Ben has said. And if I may add, this is the spokesperson for civil rights in this country.

We want to know where are the unions? Where does the Fraternal Order of Police stand on this? We have not heard from you. 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. Thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you so much Attorney Romanucci.

You know, one of the things that must be stated about the kidnapping charge, Sarah (ph), when you all see this video, you're going to see Tyre Nichols is calling out for his mom. He calls out three times for his mother. His last words on this earth is, mom, mom, mom. I mean, he's screaming for and when you think about that kidnapping charge, he said, I just want to go home.

I mean, it's a traffic stop for God's sake. A traffic stop. A simple traffic stop. He's kidnapped for a simple traffic stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think about that.

CRUMP: I mean, you all, this is such an important case, such an important case. And I continue to think about people like Terence Crutcher, people who for simple things, having car trouble, and they end up dead when they encounter the police. Corey Jones having car trouble when black people have simple encounters with police, they end up dead. We don't hear about these things with our white brothers and sisters.

We don't see the videos of the police doing the most with white citizens when they're routine simple matters. And that's where we got to continue to speak to this police coach in America. It does get emotional, because I know what you're all about to see, America. And as much as those five officers killed Tyre Nichols, it was the police coach in America that killed Tyre Nichols.

[12:50:00] So you're going to hear from our civil rights leader here in Memphis. He's standing with many other great civil rights leaders that SCLC. And I know the National Urban League is also a great presence here in Memphis, but we want to introduce to you one of our co-counsels, who is a great civil rights leader here, our NAACP president for the Memphis chapter Attorney Van Turner.


CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: Justice for Tyre.

CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: Justice for Tyre.

CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: My name is Van Turner. And I'm here for justice for Tyre. I could really go take my seat after that. It's really that simple. There's not much else to say. We know the video would be horrific. We know that this happened at Ross and Raines. I just found out that this was in an area that I represented as a county commissioner. And part of what we did on the commission was put sky cop cameras up in their community to help combat crime. Little that we know we will be combating this type of criminal behavior as well. Isn't that something?

We put sky cop cameras up to assist the police in fighting crime in our community, and yet they come and commit the very same crimes that we're trying to fight against. But glory be the God that a sky cop camera was there to catch what happened. And so we want to again stand with this family.

I'm here with my cohort, Vickie Terry. She's the executive director. We fight together on the -- for the cause of the NAACP. Know that President Derrick Johnson has sent his regards. He has sent his soldiers down from the national office of NAACP to stand next to this family. Know that the NAACP National Organization is standing with this family. And we will fight to the end. We will fight with Attorney Ben Crump. We will fight with this family. We will fight with push. We will fight with all those who are seeking justice for Tyre.

We want to thank Pastor Thomas for opening this church up again. You all thank Pastor Thomas. Give him a hand. We want to thank all those who are here fighting for justice for Tyre. I was at the candlelight vigil last night, and it was such a beautiful look. All of Memphis came together. Folks who you wouldn't think could come together, came together in support of this family.

And that's what we're going to do. We're going to stand united. We're going to peacefully protest, but we're going to protest. We're going to make sure that policy is put forth and implemented correctly. And we're going to make sure that Tyre Nichols did not die in vain. We're going to make sure that he not die in vain. We're going to keep fighting for him. We're going to keep fighting for this family.

You all pray for this family. You all pray for our city. Tonight would be one of the toughest nights that we've ever experienced in this city. But we will get through it. We will get through it. Let's stick together. Let's fight together.

Justice for Tyre.

CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: Justice for Tyre.

CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: Justice for Tyre.

CROWD: Justice for Tyre.

TURNER: Thank you very much.

CRUMP: Ms. Vickie Terry, the executive director of the NAACP, wanted to say a brief word.

VICKIE TERRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NAACP: Good morning, all. And I just wanted to let Ms. Wells know she is not alone as a mother. I am a mother and I stand here with you, Ms. Wells, proclaiming that there will be a Tyre Nichols law in Memphis, Tennessee. If there is anything that I am standing today, we will fight together. We will support Ms. Wells and the Tyre Nichols family.

I was listening to her this morning and as a mother, my heart was breaking right along with yours, Ms. Wells. I was in tears all morning because of what is going on in this city, because of what happened to Tyre Nichols. Ms. Wells, I want to say thank you for berthing Tyre because he is the individual that is going to turn this city around.

And Attorney Crump said, Memphis is the blueprint for what is going to happen across the country. Thank you so much. Ms. Wells, we are here for you. As a mother, I am here. And I promise to do what I said that I'm going to do, and that is to make Tyre Nichols a law in this city. Thank you.


CRUMP: Thank you so much, Madam Executive Director.

They wanted first degree murder. They were not bashful about that. And when you see the video tonight, you will understand that if this was your child, you will want first degree murder too. But they are respectful and accepting of those charges that the district attorney bought and they will thank them in their own way.

Now you will hear from Tyre's daddy. He's his stepfather, but as his mom and his brothers say, that's his daddy. Let's give a big round of applause for the man standing strong for his family, Mr. Rodney Wells. RODNEY WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS STEPFATHER: Thank you, everybody for showing up. I just wanted to say that, as Mr. Crump just stated, I did push for murder one from the beginning. That was my main goal. But as the charges were told to us and they explained to us what the difference between murder one and murder two was, we're very satisfied with the charges.

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. They're all kind of -- I got a text today from one of my supervisors about an alert telling her, don't be in crowds tonight. We shouldn't have that. We need to do this peacefully.

The family is very satisfied with the process, with the police chief, the DA. They acted very, very quickly in this case. We are very, very pleased with that. Other cases drag on, but this is a special case. We had a special son that prompted the quickness of these results. So as of the Tyre Nichols family, please, please protest, but protest safely. Thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you so much, Mr. Rodney Wells. And now we're going to hear from Ms. RowVaughn Wells, who just -- you're talking about dignity and grace personified. Said my son is an assignment from God. Let that sink in. Your son being sacrificed his life so that we can have a greater chance at justice for all. Ms. RowVaughn Wells will now address you. Give her a big round of applause.

ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS MOTHER: Hello. Thank you all for coming and showing support for my family and my son. I really appreciate everything everyone is doing. My son is looking down smiling because, you know, it's funny. He always said he was going to be famous one day. I didn't know this is how he was going to -- this is what he meant.


But if -- I really don't know what else to say right now. I've said so many things in the last few days. And really I want to say I've never seen the video, but what I've heard is very horrific, very horrific. And any of you who have children, please don't let them see it.