‘Despicable,’ ‘shocking’: SC law enforcement officials react to Tyre Nichols’ killing

South Carolina law enforcement and political leaders reacted swiftly to the beating death at the hands of officers of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, calling it senseless, disgusting and an abuse of power.

Nichols was beaten Jan. 7 after being pulled over by Memphis police for an unknown reason. He died three days later. Memphis police released video Friday night from officers’ body-worn cameras and a camera positioned on a traffic light apparatus, prompting outrage across the nation.

Nichols is heard asking why he was pulled over and saying he would cooperate. As officers surrounded him, he was kicked and hit with a baton. He cried out for his mother.

Five officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Two others have been put on unpaid leave.

Nichols had a 4-year-old son and was an avid skateboarder and nature photographer from Sacramento, California, according to The Associated Press. He moved to Memphis just before the pandemic, and worked for FedEx for the past nine months, The New York Times reported.

Here are statements from South Carolina leaders.

Lexington Police Chief Terrence Green

The horrific killing of Tyre Nichols reopened a wound of mistrust for law enforcement throughout our country.

My deepest sympathy goes to the Nichols family as they grieve for their loved one. I thank the officials from Memphis, Tennessee, for their quick response in firing and charging these officers for this heinous crime.

Time after time, we have seen these senseless killings of citizens by law enforcement officials who disregard their oath to uphold the law and protect the citizens of their community.

As law enforcement leaders, elected officials, and community members, we must do more to ensure that we are hiring qualified candidates, providing proper funding for training, and have appropriate policies and procedures that fit the needs of the community we serve.

I want to thank the thousands of officers throughout this country who uphold their oaths by protecting civil liberties and the security of life for the citizens they serve.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel

The murder of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers is shocking and disgusting.

Police officers must be held to the highest standard. The unspeakable actions of these officers erase the many positive strides law enforcement has made in communities across the country in recent years.

Police officers who choose to betray the oath they are sworn to uphold should be criminally charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Law enforcement is an honorable profession, but the actions of these five officers tarnish the badge of every officer who is committed to policing with professionalism, integrity, respect, and compassion.

I understand that people are upset. I am upset, too.

I fully support your right to protest peacefully so that your voices can be heard. I urge any protest to remain peaceful and lawful.

I commit to you that the law enforcement community in South Carolina will continue to build positive relationships with the communities we serve. Any officer who breaks the law will be held accountable.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott

My heart is with the Nichols family as they grapple with the reprehensible death of their son, father, and friend Tyre. The death of Tyre Nichols was the result of a clear, vile abuse of power, and the unwarranted torture of a man already in handcuffs should lead to swift, decisive action.

We have been here too many times before. We cannot continue down this path. America cannot stand silent. This was a man beaten by the power of the state. We must unite against this blatant disregard for human life especially from those we trust with immense power and responsibility.

This footage is jarring and unnerving. We cannot let the pain of the Nichols family be in vain. Let us listen to their plea to make our voices heard peacefully and in a productive way that forwards the cause of justice and a more just America. Let it serve as a call to action for every lawmaker in our nation at every level. The only way to bring light from darkness is to be united.

Columbia Police Department Chief W.H. Holbrook

Editor’s note: Holbrook’s statement was released just after 2:30 p.m. Friday, before Memphis police released the videos.

The brutal beating and subsequent death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of five police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, is both indefensible and criminal.

The incident captured on police body-worn cameras is expected to be released later today by the District Attorney’s Office. It will likely evoke outrage, disgust and anger. These reactions are understood and warranted.

The five male Memphis police officers charged with murder in connection with the incident have tarnished the law enforcement badge, turned their backs on the oath of office, and disgraced a close-knit community, their department, and the country. We are all watching.

Their abuses of power and reckless actions have left a stain on the law enforcement profession; a profession built on courage, integrity, empathy and respect. We applaud the immediate and decisive action by the Memphis Chief of Police and the District Attorney. Officers who abuse their power and act unethically, immorally and illegally should face the consequences.

The Columbia Police Department works incredibly hard every day to earn the trust and respect of citizens. Each citizen contact is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our commitment to professional, accountable, and ethical policing. Treating everyone with empathy, dignity and respect is what professional 21st century policing looks like — and that is how we police in Columbia. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott

I watched the video and found it to be terribly disturbing. The actions of those officers are despicable and in no way reflective of what this profession stands for. Those officers were entrusted to uphold the law. They betrayed that trust and deserve to be charged accordingly. My prayers are with the family of Tyre Nichols.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano

The excessive use of force and lack of intervention by these police officers are deeply troubling, upsetting and unprofessional. I commend the swift investigative and legal actions taken by authorities at the local, state and federal levels.

The death of Tyre Nichols is horrifying but does not serve as a reflection of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who uphold the norms and standards of our profession with integrity and honor each day across our nation.

We can and we must work together with our community to continue to heal and have conversations that will bring us together.

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess

As a father, I am saddened and horrified at the death of Mr. Tyre Nichols as the result of his encounter with several officers of the Memphis Police Department (TN). I have a son close to Tyre’s age, so I can only imagine their pain. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this difficult time.

As Chief of Police and law enforcement professional, I am disturbed by the actions of those officers of the Memphis Police Department. I applaud Chief Cerelyn Davis (Memphis Police Department) and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office for the swift termination and charging of these officers. In our profession, we must instill in our officers the sanctity of human life and their duty to intervene.

The importance of community policing cannot be stressed enough. Mutual respect must be in place to have an effective partnership with our community. Senseless deaths like that of Tyre undermine our efforts and negate the progress we have made to build a better relationship with our citizens.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Tyre Nichols, the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department.