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Here’s what you should know about the claim that Tyre Nichols was ‘reckless driving’

PolitiFact | Despite early reports, the police chief later said there’s no evidence so far Nichols was driving recklessly.
 
Mourners leave after the funeral service for Tyre Nichols, at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers, and later died from his injuries.
Mourners leave after the funeral service for Tyre Nichols, at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers, and later died from his injuries. [ JEFF ROBERSON | AP ]
Published Feb. 3, 2023

A man narrating a Facebook video claimed that 29-year-old Tyre Nichols was “reckless driving” before he suffered a fatal beating at the hands of five Memphis, Tennessee, police officers.

“I keep hearing this comment, let’s say that was your child,” the man said in the video, which appeared on the social media platform with a “Tyre Nichols” label. “If my child was stupid enough to fight with the police because they were dangerous and reckless driving, I would be more embarrassed that the police even had to go through that crap with my child.”

The Jan. 29 post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Many details about Nichols’ Jan. 7 encounter with police remain unclear. Neither investigators nor attorneys for the officers have released any solid information about the officers’ motive in pulling Nichols over.

Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after the beating.

Five officers involved in the incident were fired and, on Jan. 26, were charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. A day later, Memphis officials released video of the beating. After the video was made public, officials announced that two additional police officers had been placed on leave, and three fire department personnel had been fired.

Related: Tampa Bay leaders condemn fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis

Memphis police initially reported that they stopped Nichols because he was driving recklessly: “On Jan. 7, 2023, at approximately 8:30 p.m., officers in the area of Raines Road and Ross Road attempted to make a traffic stop for reckless driving,” read the initial Memphis Police Department statement posted to Twitter on Jan. 8.

The account did not mention any injuries Nichols sustained during the police encounter, but said that an ambulance was called after “the suspect complained of having shortness of breath.”

Speaking to CNN on Jan. 27, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said there was no proof Nichols was driving recklessly.

“We looked at cameras, we’ve looked at body-worn cameras and, even if something occurred prior to this stop, we’ve been unable to substantiate that at this time,” Davis said.

“We’ve taken a pretty extensive look to determine what that probable cause was, and we have not been able to substantiate that. It doesn’t mean that something didn’t happen, but there’s no proof.”

We didn’t get a reply to emails we sent to attorneys of two of the officers who were identified in news stories or to the president of the Memphis Police Association union.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, which charged the officers, said Jan. 30 its criminal investigation is continuing and more charges could be filed. Also ongoing is a federal criminal civil rights investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department and federal prosecutors.