(CNN) Dyer Nichols’ family has filed a $550 million federal lawsuit against the city of Memphis, its police department and what they say were “incompetent, untrained and unsupervised” officers assigned to the special unit that brutally attacked the 29-year-old black man. man after a traffic stop in January.
Nichols was punched and kicked multiple times by Memphis police officers following a traffic stop and brief chase on Jan. 7. He died three days after being admitted to the hospital.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for Nichols’ mother Rowan Wells, said the death was a “direct and foreseeable result of the unconstitutional policies, practices, practices and willful negligence of the City of Memphis” and its police officers.
“It has nothing to do with the monetary value of this case,” Wells told reporters. “But everything has to do with accountability. Those five police officers killed my son. They beat him to death, and they should be held accountable along with everyone involved in my son’s murder.”
The lawsuit compared the Nichols beating to the 1955 killing of Emmett Till, and said that Nichols — like Till — “suffered a beating at the hands of a modern-day lynch mob.”
The lawsuit said the reasons why Nichols was stopped in the car were “never proven.” Officers then pulled Nicholls from his car and unleashed an unjustifiable “force frenzy” on him, acting “like a pack of wolves trying to hunt down their wounded prey.”
Five black police officers were fired following an internal investigation and indicted on criminal charges on January 26.
Memphis police spokesman Maj. Karen Rudolph declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
CNN has reached out to city officials and attorneys for the five officers charged with criminal charges for comment.
The five officers charged were part of the department’s special Scorpion unit, which was launched in 2021 to address a spike in violent crime in Memphis.
Memphis police said the unit was permanently deactivated shortly after the video of Nichols’ arrest was released in January.
“This landmark case will not only get Dyer Nichols justice in the civil courts, but will send a message to cities across America that have police crackdown units licensed by city leaders to go out and terrorize black and brown communities,” attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Nichols family, said at a news conference.
The lawsuit said Nichols’ death was beyond five rogue officers, “the culmination of department-ordered and department-tolerated brutality by an unqualified, untrained and unsupervised Scorpion unit executing an unconstitutional mandate on the streets of Memphis. Without fear of retribution or consequence.”
“Instead of ‘restoring peace’ in Memphis neighborhoods, the Scorpion faction brought terror,” the lawsuit said.
“In reality, it was a bunch of officially sanctioned inexperienced, untrained, over-aggressive police officers. Turned loose with no oversight on the Memphis community. They were instructed to strike without warning and many times without proper constitutional basis.”
Body camera videos and surveillance footage from Nichols’ arrest Released a day laterPublicly revealing the severity of the beating drew widespread condemnation from residents and police officials, and the district attorney said he was conflicted. What the authorities said happened In the first police report.
The video sparked a national debate about justice in policing and reform, shaking up a nation accustomed to videos of police brutality — particularly against people of color. It sparked protests and vigils in Memphis and other major US cities.
The US Department of Justice is reviewing the Memphis Police Department. The DOJ said it will review the special units across the U.S. separately and develop guidance for their use in addition to the review of the Memphis PD.
Five former Memphis police officers were indicted in January He was arraigned on the criminal charges on February 17.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. They each face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Second-degree murder in Tennessee is a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.
Their lawyers entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.
In February, police identified Preston Hemp, a white man, as the sixth officer fired. Police said he was charged with violating departmental policies covering personal conduct and truthfulness.
Last month, a Memphis official said A seventh police officer has been dismissed and others were suspended or left the force after Nicholas’s death. Details about the officer’s name and what the officer was charged with were not immediately released.
Three Memphis Fire Department personnel who responded to the scene — two emergency medical technicians and a fire lieutenant — have been fired, though no one has been charged criminally, according to the city. A city official said last month that a fourth fire department employee had been suspended, but no details were provided.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Emmett Till’s first name.