Like the 29-year-old victim in the nation’s latest high-profile police brutality case, the five officers charged with murder are Black.
By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A picture of Tyre Nichols in his hospital bed greeted a recent assembly of the Coleman Avenue Church of Christ.
The same big screen displayed photos of five Memphis police officers charged with murder in the 29-year-old Black man’s death.
The images reflected the importance of the case to Christians in this Mississippi River city of 630,000, where Nichols’ death and graphic videos of his beating have sparked national protests.
The predominantly Black congregation offered special prayers the last two Sundays and talked “in no uncertain terms” about the case, said longtime minister John DeBerry Jr., a former Democratic state representative who now serves as a senior adviser to Republican Gov. Bill Lee.
“I think it is a systemic issue and that it is not a new issue,” said DeBerry, who as a teen witnessed civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech before his 1968 assassination.
“While we focus on violations of law and protocol and civil rights, and we especially focus on it when it crosses racial lines,” the minister added, “this is especially concerning to a lot of us because all five of these officers are Black.”
Authorities identified the officers as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith. Two other officers have been relieved from duty and three emergency medical technicians fired amid ongoing investigations into Nichols’ death.
“We’re concerned about the level of violence, the level of malice,” DeBerry said of the police actions. “They tased him and pepper-sprayed him and then beat him to death. There is just no excuse for it.”
This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.
Featured image: AP photo by Gerald Herbert