"Accountability is what we need!" Tyre Nichols' family attorney, Benjamin Crump, passionately declared these words as he announced a $550 million lawsuit against the city of Memphis, its police department, and officers involved in the now disbanded Black SCORPION Unit who allegedly contributed to Nichols’ tragic demise.
On January 7th in Memphis, Tennessee, Nichols faced a horrifying encounter with police during a traffic stop.
He was brutally punched and kicked multiple times, ultimately leading to his tragic death three days later at the hospital.
In the aftermath, five Memphis police department officers were firedand charged with second-degree murder for their roles in the incident, all of which was recorded on body cam and surveillance footage.
"$500 million. That's a lot of money. But just as the judge spoke, this has nothing to do with the monetary value of this lawsuit, but everything with that has to do with accountability. Those five police officers who murdered my son, they beat him to death, and they need to be held accountable, along with everyone else that has something to do with my son's murder," Nichols’ mother said during a press conference held on Wednesday.
Crump spoke to Scripps News on Thursday and explained what the family’s expectation is as to where this lawsuit will realistically go.
"They have these black oppression units within the police department that say they have a license to terrorize black and brown communities. We're sending a message to them," Crump told Scripps News. "To those cities all over the country — this isn't unique just to Memphis — whether it is Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, [or] Atlanta [where] the REDDOG Unit that was disbanded, if you don't change these policies and you have a Tyre Nichols in your city, then we're gonna come to you next. We want to make it a financial impediment to kill black people unjustly in America when you're wearing a gun and a badge."
SEE MORE: Tyre Nichols' family files lawsuit against Memphis police
Crump says that the Nichols case was particularly disturbing because there were five Black officers who beat a Black man to death; however, he wants to send a message with this lawsuit to state that the problem is not about the race of the officer, but the race of the citizens in each case of police brutality.
"The determinative factors of whether the police are going to levy excessive use of force and brutality doesn't depend on the race of the police officers. It depends on the race of the citizens," Crump said. "This propensity to trip on the constitutional rights of people of color versus doing those outrageous, egregious, things to White citizens. We don't see those videos. We keep saying, where are those videos? Why is it just Black people and brown people being beat-up like Tyre Nichols and George Floyd? … We are trying to send a message with this lawsuit that we're gonna hold you accountable, and we're gonna be intentional about holding you accountable because we want to make policy changes, wholesale changes."
Crump also took the time to address the latest incident in Kansas City, where 16-year-old Ralph Yarl was shot when he went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. Crump was retained by Yarl’s family to handle this case.
"We want to make sure people are not profiling our children because of the color of their skin, and we are equally outraged that the two young white women were shot inexplicably because they simply made a mistake," said Crump. "This mentality of shoot first and ask questions later is something that we have to grapple with in America. Other than that, we have just innocent lives being taken on a daily basis."
In six days, four young people in the U.S. have been shot for making one of the most ordinary mistakes in everyday life: Showing up at the wrong place.
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