Was It Personal? Authorities Investigating Rumor That Tyre Nichols Was in a Relationship With Officer's Ex

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

It began with a rumor.

Sir Maejor, an ethnically black actor and model with a fair complexion due to albinism, tweeted Monday that “I am being told that Tyre Nichols was in a relationship with and worked at a Memphis @FedEx with #MemphisPolice Demetrius Halys’s ex-girlfriend & baby mama.” Not only that, but “After the beating Officer Halys took a pictures of #TyreNichols face and sent it to his babymama.”

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The following day, Maejor added a disclaimer in all caps: “THIS IS MERELY SPECULATIONS AND OR A RUMOR AT THIS POINT — THIS INFORMATION HAS NOT BEEN CONFIRMED.” This statement comported with what I assumed to be the case — that Twitter is full of unfounded rumors and nonsense, and that it was kind of tacky to be spreading stories about a man who had just suffered a horrific death.

And yet the very fact that a member in good standing of the black community would even post such a thing made me wonder if it might be true. So I dug a little bit and quickly found that the story was being reported by none other than Newsweek. Not only that, the outlet revealed that the Memphis Police Dept. (MPD) was investigating the issue:

The Memphis Police Department is currently investigating rumors regarding a possible connection between Tyre Nichols and the ex-wife or ex-girlfriend of one of the Memphis cops arrested and charged in Nichols’ death.

On Wednesday morning, Newsweek asked the Shelby County district attorney’s office if it is investigating possible rumors connecting Nichols to the ex-girlfriend or ex-wife of former Memphis cop Demetrius Haley. Additionally, Newsweek asked about rumors that Haley sent photos of Nichols to his ex-wife following the violent arrest of the 29-year-old Black man.

“All of this is still under investigation. Those are the things, along with the participation of others, that [are] now the subject of our investigation,” a spokesperson for the Shelby County district attorney told Newsweek in response.

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Newsweek later spoke with the Shelby County district attorney’s office communications director, Erica Williams, who told them, “We know that there have been questions about other officers and Fire Department personnel on the scene, persons remotely operating cameras, the potential of false reporting, among other things. We are now at the stage of our investigation where we are looking into all of these matters.” Williams added, “At this time none of those accusations are confirmed. However, nothing is off the table as this is a very active investigation—and still early in the investigation.”

Related: Two Officers Involved in Tyre Nichols Death Were Hired After Memphis PD Lowered Recruiting Standards.

The rumors immediately triggered reactions from people who claimed they’d had a hunch there was more to the story. Commenters on Maejor’s original post wrote things like, “I said this to my colleagues on day 1 of the video’s release. It was 100% personal and involving a woman. Guess we’ll see,” and “I’ve said this from the moment I saw the video. Didn’t know the whole of it but knew it had to be about one of the cops [sic] family. I was guessing a sister. As soon as the video showed the cops standing Nichols up. Just one cop beat him in a circle,” and “I thought it was personal after watching the video too,” and “It sure did seem they were after him for personal reasons. Absolutely sickening what they did.” Additionally, critics have been pointing out that there has yet to be given a good explanation for the initial traffic stop — another detail that could be explained as the personal targeting of Nichols.

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But is the rumor true? Tyre Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, asserted that “My son was not messing around with one of the officer’s wives” on Monday. That does not address the issue of whether he was in a relationship with Officer Demetrius Haley’s ex, however.

The Nichols family attorney is also insisting the rumor is not true. And a spokesman for the attorney “Also said whether Tyre was specifically targeted or not, it does not change the fact that the assault on Tyre was a gross abuse of power by several MPD officers who contributed to his beating and eventual death,” according to NewsNation correspondent Alex Caprariello. “That is the focus of their investigation and legal proceedings.”

Yes, but even more so — beyond the wrangling over sordid rumors, personal grudges, laying blame, and political appropriation of a tragedy — there remains a young man who suffered and died and his surviving family members who will carry a crushing burden all their remaining days. Pray for them.

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