2023 Excellence in Social Justice Reporting, Portfolio finalist

Coverage of Tyre Nichols’s Lethal Police Encounter

About the Project

Once the videos of the killing of Tyre Nichols by police officers were released, The Times moved fast and dug deep to give readers an understanding into how the fatal encounter unfolded as well as the systemic policing problems that are fueling violence, inequity and distrust in law enforcement in Memphis and other cities around the country.

The initial reporting challenge centered on the visual evidence. The 13-minute incident spanned two locations and involved six police officers and several vehicles. Most of the encounter — including the fatal beating — was recorded on video. But the footage, from four different cameras, was technically difficult to analyze quickly and too graphic to publish.

Teams of journalists from the visual investigations, graphics and national teams worked together to dissect frame by frame what unfolded after Mr. Nichols was stopped. The result was three stories that revealed a clear timeline, debunked police officers’ false allegations and laid bare the escalating violence deployed by each police officer. They also showed readers how officers — despite wearing body cameras — collectively deluged Mr. Nichols with dozens of contradictory and unachievable commands. The audio and visual evidence showed the officers treating Mr. Nichols as if he resisted these orders, even as he appeared barely conscious.

The Times went a step further to closely examine the so-called “Scorpion” unit that conducted the arrest, documenting its record of violent interactions with the public in the months since it had been launched and, in a separate piece, examined the high volume of vehicle seizures initiated by Memphis’s Scorpion and Organized Crime units, a tactic particularly punishing to low-income residents who may not have been convicted of any crime but who were nonetheless unable to afford to recover their vehicles.