'We have a problem', says Tyre Nichols's family lawyer

Ben Crump called on Sunday for the US Congress to pass police reform legislation

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump speaks, flanked by the parents of Tyre Nichols and faith and community leaders. AFP
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The lawyer representing the family of Tyre Nichols, the black man who was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers, called on Sunday for the US Congress to pass police reform legislation.

Mr Nichols's mother hoped the tragedy could lead to a “greater good", the lawyer, Ben Crump, told CNN.

“Shame on us if we don't use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed,” Mr Crump said.

"How many of these tragedies do we have to see on video before we say, 'We have a problem, America?'"

All five officers are due to appear for a bond arraignment on February 17 at 9am in front of Judge James Jones of the Shelby County Criminal Court, records show.

"Whether the officers are black or white, we expect to see swift action and swift justice," Mr Crump told CNN.

He said he and the Nichols family had spoken with US President Joe Biden on Friday and urged him to use Mr Nichols's death to strengthen support for its passage.

Mr Nichols's mother was coping with her son's death by believing he was destined to change the world, Mr Crump told ABC.

“She believes in her heart Tyre was sent here for an assignment and that there is going to be greater good that comes from this tragedy.”

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was introduced in 2021 after Mr Floyd died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, sparking worldwide protests over racial injustice.

The bill, which aims to stop aggressive police tactics, passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in 2021 but stalled in the Senate.

Mr Biden on Thursday called on Congress to send the legislation to his desk.

Mr Nichols's death is the latest high-profile example of police using excessive force against black people and other minorities.

Mr Crump said Mr Nichols's death should finally prompt legislators to act.

“It is this culture that says, `It doesn't matter whether the police officers are black or Hispanic or white, that it is somehow allowed for you to trample on the constitutional rights of certain citizens from certain ethnicities and certain communities',” Mr Crump said on CNN.

Republican House of Representatives judiciary committee chairman Jim Jordan, appearing on NBC, warned against rushing into new legislation to create mandates for police.

“These five individuals did not have any respect for life," Mr Jordan said.

"And again, I don't think these five guys represent the vast, vast majority of law enforcement. But I don't know if there's anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video."

Five officers, all black, are charged with Mr Nichols's murder after video captured on bodycams and a street surveillance camera showed them violently confronting him on January 7.

Mr Nichols, 29, was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries three days later in the city where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx.

The Memphis Police Department on Saturday disbanded the Scorpion unit to which the officers belonged, as protests took place in US cities a day after harrowing video of the attack was released.

The officers were charged on Thursday with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression in Mr Nichols' death and dismissed from the department.

Updated: January 30, 2023, 5:47 PM