Body Camera Footage Shows Cops Viciously Beating Tyre Nichols

Memphis police released horrifying video late Friday of officers repeatedly pepper spraying, punching, and kicking Tyre Nichols as he’s held down on the ground before handcuffing him and leaving him sitting against a police vehicle.

Nichols, 29, can be heard crying out, “Stop, I’m not doing anything!” and “I’m just trying to go home.” At one point, he can be heard calling for his mother, much like George Floyd did as Minnesota police murdered him.

The four videos, three from body camera footage and one from a pole surveillance camera, show police chasing Nichols, who was unarmed, and beating him for several minutes after a traffic stop on Jan. 7 for reasons that remain unclear. One officer repeatedly kicks Nichols in the head, while another swings again and again with a baton.

Nichols died three days later, on Jan. 10 due to “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to an autopsy commissioned by his family.

The videos, which total about an hour in total, were published to Vimeo a day after the Memphis district attorney’s office charged the five officers involved in the incident with murder.

Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told CNN earlier on Friday that the video is hard to watch and that the officers’ actions “defy humanity.” She also said she was “not surprised” when the district attorney’s office announced the officers were charged with murder.

“You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we’re all sworn to, and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement, Davis said. "Individuals watching will feel what the family felt, and if you don't, then you're not a human being.”

The Nichols family and its attorneys had a chance to review the footage before the officers’ arrest. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump described the video as "appalling," "deplorable," "heinous," "violent," and "troublesome on every level. He compared it to the video of Rodney King’s vicious beating by Los Angeles Police Department officers in 1991, which spurred protests and riots.

“It was unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes," said the Nichols’ other attorney, Antonio Romanucci, who also said the officers treated Nichols like a “human pinata.”

On Jan. 7, Nichols was pulled over by police on his way home from taking photos of a sunset, attorneys for Nichols’ family said this week. Police claimed he was pulled over for “reckless driving,” but Davis told CNN Thursday that the department was “unable to substantiate” the accusation.

Police dragged him from his car at the traffic stop and ordered him to lie face down on the street. Nichols appeared to grow scared and officers began repeatedly threatening, tasing and punching him. “I’ll knock your ass the fuck out,” one cop said.

Nichols took off running, which led to the chase into a local neighborhood, where one officer tackled him on a corner and began the vicious beating.

The family described Nichols as a “beautiful soul” who loved photography, skateboarding, and sunsets. His mother said he was “damn near perfect.” He was the father to a 4-year-old son, an image of whom he had tattooed on his arm, and worked for FedEx.

"All I know is my son Tyre is not here with me anymore,” Wells said. “He will not walk through that door again.”

All five officers—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith—were fired from the Memphis Police Department last week. The cops were members of a task force launched in 2021 called SCORPION, or Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. On Thursday, Davis announced a review of all specialized units within the department, including SCORPION.

“We're taking a deeper dive into a previous arrest, previous video camera footage,” said Davis. “We've asked the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice to come in and take a look at our specialized units.”

On Thursday, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy charged all five former cops with the killing of Nichols with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. “If it was a legal detention to begin with, it certainly became illegal at a certain point, and was an unlawful detention,” Mulroy told reporters Thursday.

Attorneys for two of the former cops said Thursday that their clients would plead not guilty to the charges.

The Department of Justice has separately opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that he’d been briefed on the video and called it “deeply disturbing” and “horrific,” while FBI Director Christopher Wray—who did watch the video—said he was “appalled.”

Nichols’ killing and the aftermath have put Memphis on edge, particularly as the city awaited the release of the video footage Friday. The city of Memphis was increasing police presence Memphis TV station WREG reported. Memphis schools have also canceled athletic events after-school activities Friday ahead of expected protests.

Other major cities have also braced for demonstrations.

During a candlelight vigil for Nichols in downtown Memphis Thursday, his mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she wanted protests to remain peaceful.

“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets because that is not what my son stood for,” Wells said.

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