If Ben Crump, America’s No. 1 attorney in illiteracy, gets what he wants, kiss the right to due process — or what’s left of it — goodbye. If you’re suspected of committing a crime, particularly if you’re a police officer in the line of duty, pray you don’t see his face. It will be all but a death sentence.
Crump last week said that the Memphis Police Department’s response to the death of 29-year-old black man Tyre Nichols is “the blueprint for going forward” in matters of police confronting black suspects. By that, he apparently means firing, arresting, and prosecuting cops based on whatever half-baked narrative Crump puts out with hopes of getting a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city — all before law enforcement has had a chance to release any materials in its own defense.
Here’s what allegedly happened in the run-in between Nichols and the police: He was stopped by multiple cop cars on Jan. 7 for, police said, reckless driving; he was pulled from his car, but while officers attempted to subdue him, he broke free and fled the scene; after police were able to apprehend Nichols a second time, he allegedly continued to struggle and multiple cops appear to have taken turns beating him. Those details are apparent in the videos released by authorities on Friday.
But while Crump wants cable news opinions on incomplete footage of a confrontation with police to be the “blueprint” for firing and convicting cops, it might be helpful — fair, even — to get a little more information beforehand.
Why did police feel the need to forcibly remove Nichols from his car? Why did he resist the detention? What does the police incident report say? What does the medical examiner’s report of Nichols’ autopsy say? What does the district attorney’s criminal complaint against the five officers say?
We know none of that information because we have none of the supporting documents or testimony. No incident report, no medical examiner’s report, and no criminal complaint against the police.
To be sure, our stupid media, fully invested in Crump’s cause, dutifully reported that an “independent” autopsy found Nichols to have “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” It further confirmed that “his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police…”
OK, first, there is no such thing as an “independent” autopsy. There is only an official autopsy conducted by the state’s medical examiner. Anything else done to the body outside of that is privately funded by a third party — in this case, apparently Crump and the Nichols family. In other words, they paid for what they got before any official autopsy report was released to the public.
Second, those findings, such as they are, have so far only been relayed by Crump himself, who has not made the private report available to any media that have requested it. Thusly, CNN reported on Jan. 25: “CNN has asked Crump for a copy of the autopsy commissioned by the family, but he said the full report is not yet ready.”
And if we’re just basing our decision to convict off the so-far released video footage, plus the ever-so-helpful repeated statements by the police chief about how “inhumane” the contents of it are, then let’s talk about what’s in that footage.
It starts with an officer in his car, driving to the scene where more police appear to have blocked Nichols’ vehicle on multiple sides. The cop exits his own squad car and approaches Nichols’ vehicle, at which point another officer is opening the door and pulling Nichols out. They demand that Nichols get on the ground on his stomach, though he resists and tells them, “Y’all are doing a lot right now,” and “I’m just trying to go home.”
There is further struggling as Nichols gets back up to his feet and an officer tries shooting him with a Taser. Nichols is able to flee on foot. More officers arrive to assist and chase Nichols down. At some point, they find him and are once again able to force him to the ground.
An officer sprays Nichols with an irritant but appears also to spray himself, something he complains about in separate video footage. Nichols repeatedly struggles to get on his feet, even as separate cops are seen swinging fists at his head and body. As you’ve heard, there’s a lot of commotion, and Nichols calls for “Mom,” who apparently lives fairly close to where the incident occurred.
Once he’s finally been thoroughly detained and intensely beaten, the police talk among themselves. A few important remarks are picked up:
“He high as a kite.”
“That motherf-cker high.”
“He high. He high as a motherf-cker.”
“I sprayed. He sprayed … tased.”
“Swung. Bam, almost hit me.”
“He reached for Martin’s gun.”
“He had his hand on my gun. That motherf-cker…”
“He’s stronger than a motherf-cker.”
What were they talking about? What did they see that we didn’t? What did they feel that we couldn’t?
One officer said he initiated the stop because Nichols was driving against traffic and swerving toward his own squad car as police signaled for Nichols to stop. Eventually, the officer said, Nichols paused at a red light and that’s when the police engaged him on foot. Was Nichols under the influence of a deadly drug when he was confronted by police? It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.
In any event, nobody believes Nichols deserved to die or to be excessively beaten by overzealous cops. But what happened? We should know everything, and “everything” isn’t limited to incomplete video and whatever Ben Crump has to say.