Devastating death of Tyre Nichols rehashes traumatic feelings towards police

Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man and native of Memphis, Tenn. was violently beaten by five policemen, all of whom were also Black, during a routine traffic stop on Jan. 7. He died three days later as a result of his injuries.


Jordan D. Brown

A protester holds their sign stating “Enough is Enough.”

Jah'I Selassie, Campus News Editor

The death of Tyre Nichols not only shook the nation as another instance in a long history of police brutality against Black people, but it has also had an emotional impact on the Morgan State community.

Though the beating lasted a mere three minutes, the bodycam footage only served to further emphasize the terror of the ordeal as Nichols begged officers to stop.

Weeks later, the five former officers involved in Nichols’ death pled not guilty to second-degree murder.

Natasha Pratt Harris, professor of criminology at Morgan State University, described the events as “devastating.”

“It [the Tyre Nichols incident] further sends a wedge down the middle of police and community…it’s traumatizing. Just the thought of it, it can lend itself to a trauma response,” she said.

According to a 2018 study conducted by The Lancet, the murders of unarmed Black civilians at the hands of police was followed by days of poor mental health for African Americans living in the state where the incident occurred for three months.

Victims, witnesses, and viewers of police brutality videos on social media are frequently subjected to emotional distress.

Psychology Today wrote, “Vicarious trauma arises from exposure to other people’s suffering.  In such cases,empathetic engagement with those who experience incidents and mayhem can lead to trauma.”

These feelings of anguish create outrage that manifests into different movements, once such being the Black Lives Matter movement created in 2013 to combat this very issue.

Instances like the death of Tyre Nichols have only been amplified with the rise of social media, similar to the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

Floyd’s murder was the catalyst for the passing of a legislative bill coined “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021” which firmly stood against the use of qualified immunity by officers and proposed the lowering of criminal intent standards.

Pratt-Harris pushes for the abolition of qualified immunity, which protects state officials and law enforcement officers from individual liability unless the clear violation of a constitutional right has occurred.

Though all five participating officers have been charged in the murder, a swift carrying out of justice compared to similar incidents previously seen by the country, the public is steadily calling for police reform.

“There have been actual riots because people are responding to their trauma. The city will have to recover from that. So, [with the elimination of qualified immunity] these things are left to the individual or individuals who caused the harm,” Pratt-Harris explained.

While Morgan’s faculty were moved by the events following Nichols’ murder, students found the details of the case to be shocking.

Jawon Curry, senior psychology major, was deeply disturbed by the nature of Nichols’ passing.

“I feel like recently, the Black community is in a really tense spot when it comes to police relations, specifically police brutality…when I first heard about Tyre Nichols I assumed he was killed by white officers…I was shocked,” he said.

Curry believes the charged police officers being Black complicates the situation and was intrigued when noticing the lack of discourse from Blue Lives Matter supporters in favor of the officers.

“I feel like that community [conservative Blue Lives Matter supporters] tried to weaponize Tyree Nichols’ murder against the Black community. I feel like they went, ‘Oh, you guys were saying that Black Lives Matter, and it’s just a white versus black thing. And here are Black police officers killing a Black man,’” he said.

The news of the unfortunate death of the 20-year-old comes almost one year after President Joe Biden’s press correspondence sharing the country’s efforts to combat systemic racism.

“Addressing systemic racism and strengthening democracy in the United States is a critical part of President Biden’s foreign policy vision.  Combating systemic racism requires aggressive action to address structures, policies, and practices that contribute to the wealth gap, to health disparities, and to inequalities in educational access, outcomes, and beyond,” the May 2021 press release read.