The revelation that one of the Memphis police officers charged with murdering Tyre Nichols took photos of the bloodied victim and shared at least one of them via text message with a “female acquaintance” has revived a social media rumor that the police violence was personal and motivated by more than just the pursuit of an allegedly reckless driver.
Fired Memphis Police Officer Demetrius Haley took the photos while Nichols was handcuffed and propped up against a vehicle before sharing one of the images with at least five people, according to a police statement.
“On [Haley’s] personal cell phone, [Haley] took two photographs while standing in front of the obviously injured subject after he was handcuffed,” the statement said in part. “[Haley] admitted [he] shared the photo in a text message with five people; one civilian employee, two MPD officers, and one female acquaintance.”
It was that “one female acquaintance” part that didn’t sit right with critics on social media who suggested that the whole story wasn’t being told. In particular, several revived one conspiracy theory that claimed without proof that Nichols was the victim of a revenge beating.
Sherrilyn Ifill, the former President and Director-Counsel of LDF, tweeted that the new report “raised alarm bells” surrounding the “rumors” she said she has “tried to ignore.” Ifill said, “We need the entire story ASAP.”
“This streets been saying this was a revenge murder 2 weeks ago!” one Twitter user pointed to a previous tweet from Jan. 29 that placed a spotlight on unfounded allegations that “Tyre had a relationship with one of the officers [sic] girlfriend.”
To be sure, Nichols’ stepfather has already acknowledged the rumors and dismissed them as not credible.
“My son was not messing around with one of the officer’s wives,” Rodney Wells said last week during a vigil in Memphis. “That’s just a rumor.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Nichols’ funeral last week, also dismissed the rumor.
“Nobody mentioned nothing about no girlfriend,” Sharpton previously said before adding, “they started beating an unarmed man.”
But after Tuesday’s report, what appeared to be a growing number of Twitter users begged to differ despite offering no evidence of their suspicions.
“Wow! So it is true that he sent the pics to a female acquaintance Really starting to sound personal…,” one Twitter user posted. “So his dad said the rumors weren’t true. I wonder if they kept this information from him and tried to cover it up so his family wouldn’t know smh..”
Another asked: “Who is this female acquaintance? Is she the ex that worked with Tyre? If so, this goes against what Tyre’s stepfather put out.”
“The cops in Tyre Nichols murder took photos of him DYING and sent those photos to 5 individuals including to a female acquaintance,” another tweet said. “I think they followed him intending to assault him and eventually killing him!”
“This sounds very personal. Like showing off a prized kill,” another tweet claimed. “I think the full story is going to be so horrific we will see why they were fired so quickly.”
“A few days ago people speculated about a cop sending pictures to a female acquaintance and were shamed into silence,” one tweet claimed.
“Who was the ‘female acquaintance’ he sent it to? Not repeating the allegations but there are rumors circulating that this fatal beating wasn’t ‘business’, but personal,” another tweet said.
It’s important to point out that these conspiracy theories are just that — theories. None has been proven or presented as fact and at this point, they are purely speculation and conjecture.
But the new report about Haley taking photos of Nichols after the savage beating on Jan. 7 and texting one of them to a “female acquaintance” has only stoked the conspiracy theory flames as the public waits to find out more about the events that led to the police brutality in Memphis.
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