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The City Of Memphis Releases Videos Of Tyre Nichols' Arrest And Beating

A diverse group of people stand in jackets holding candles.
People attend a candlelight vigil in memory of Tyre Nichols at a park on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn.
(Scott Olson
Getty Images)
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Memphis authorities released footage from the police beating of Tyre Nichols, as cities across the country prepare for the public's response to the brutal incident.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx worker, was pulled over on Jan. 7 for what police said was reckless driving. After trying to flee on foot, Nichols was severely beaten by police. He died in a hospital three days later.

In the videos released by the City of Memphis, officers are shown aggressively dragging Nichols from his car, shouting profanities throughout the encounter. They deploy a Taser at him, and chase him on foot. Later, officers are seen beating and kicking Nichols as he lies on the ground. At times, he is screaming, and appears to call out "Mom."

The footage was uploaded to Vimeo in four different parts, showing police-issued body-worn camera. The first shows the initial interaction between Nichols and the officers. The second (pulled from surveillance footage from a light pole), the third, and fourth videos reflect footage at the second location, a residential neighborhood in the city. These videos show the three-minute span of officers beating Nichols.

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  • L.A. Mayor Karen Bass called the beating of Tyre Nichols "ferocious violence from an out of control herd." Bass said her "heart aches for Tyre’s family and all who loved him," and she said justice was "not a guilty verdict. True justice would be Tyre being alive today."

  • L.A. Police Commission President William J. Briggs II called the beating "savage and unconscionable," and he said officers' actions should be condemned "[n]ot just by members of the law enforcement community, but by all Americans."

  • The LAPD said Friday afternoon that the department is "closely monitoring the impending release of body worn video and other relevant video involving the inexcusable death of Tyre Nichols."

  • The statement goes on to say the department will "do all in its power to ensure the lawful expression of the public's anger and frustration."

  • Briggs said anger was warranted, and he underscored the department's commitment to protect the public's right to demonstrate. But he and Bass also urged a nonviolent response. "As the people of Los Angeles process and react to this horrific killing, we must move with purpose and peace," Bass said.

  • The LAPD is among Southern California law enforcement agencies sharply criticized for mishandling protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the hands of Minnesota police. A report found LAPD officers had inadequate training and ignored the law in responding to protests.

  • The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also released a statement saying it "is in continuous contact with our Local, State and Federal partners concerning on-going events in their jurisdictions."

  • "The Department has also been engaged in community outreach efforts including valued dialogue with civic leaders throughout the week and will continue to do so," the statement said. "Our patrol stations and specialized units remain in a state of readiness to respond to any disturbances that might occur."

"Make no mistake: Tyre Nichols was, at all times, an innocent victim on that night. He did nothing wrong. He was caught up in a sting," said Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer representing his family, speaking at a Friday press conference.

Cities across the U.S. are on edge and bracing for a familiar series of events: protests, outrage and calls for national police reform.

All five officers have since been fired, and are facing charges of second-degree murder, assault and kidnapping. State and federal authorities are also investigating the officers.
Lawyers and Nichols' family, who have privately viewed the video of the arrest, called it "appalling," "heinous" and "horrific."

"He was a human piñata," said Romanucci earlier in the week. "It was an unadulterated, unabashed, non-stop beating of this young boy for three minutes."

Nichols' family lawyers call for an investigation into 'saturation patrols'

Activists are already calling for reform in Memphis and across the nation, with many asking for a completely overhauled approach to policing.

Amber Sherman, a local Black Lives Matter organizer, told NPR's Debbie Elliot, "The only way for us to end the injustice that keeps happening and the murders of black people that keep happening is to stop using police for traffic enforcement."

The Nichols family attorneys have called on the DOJ to investigate "saturation patrols," which they described as big teams of police patrolling neighborhoods in the name of decreasing violent crime but instead foster a "wolf pack" mindset. Lawyers say the five officers who beat Nichols were part of such a unit.

"It doesn't matter if the officer's a Black officer, a Hispanic officer or a white officer. It is the culture that allows them to think they can do this to Tyre," attorney Ben Crump said Friday. "And we have to call out this culture every time we get a chance."

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Lawyers for the family said they applauded the severity and swiftness of charges brought against the officers, all of whom are Black.

"No longer can you tell us we gotta wait six months to a year, even though we got a video with evidence of the excessive force and the crime," Crump said. "We now have the blueprint, America, and we won't accept less going forward in the future. We won't have Black officers treated differently than white officers under the law."

Memphis authorities and Nichols's family urge protestors to stay peaceful after the video's release

In a video statement released Thursday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the city would initiate an outside review of its specialized units, saying it was clear that the officers violated local policies and training practices.

A person with dark-tone skin and curly hair holds a single candle
People attend a candlelight vigil in memory of Tyre Nichols on Thursday in Memphis.
(Scott Olson
Getty Images)

National leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton have said the police brutality against Nichols was even more painful because of the officers' race. All five officers, like Nichols, are Black.

"We fought to put Blacks on the police force," he told the BBC. "For them to act in such a brutal way is more egregious than I can tell you. [...] I do not believe these five black police officers would have done this had he been a young white man."

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, the first Black woman to hold the city's top police role, pledged "absolute accountability" for those responsible for Nichols' death, but asked for the city to stay calm in the meantime.

"I expect you to feel outrage at the disregard of basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video," she said. "But we need to ensure our community is safe in this process."

Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells urged the same approach, but for a personal reason.

"I don't want us burning up cities, tearing up our streets, because that's not what my son stood for," she said at a vigil for Nichols Thursday evening.

"We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar. We do not want any type of disturbance. We want peaceful protests," Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, reiterated early Friday afternoon.

Memphis area schools canceled all after-class activities and postponed Saturday school events as an extra precaution, the Associated Press reports. Some local businesses, including the Memphis Power Co. and the University of Memphis, were also planning to close early.

Cities were already bracing for protests following a police killing in Atlanta

President Biden joined Nichols' family in their grief on Thursday, saying "outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable."

Biden also called Nichols' death a "painful reminder" of the need to reform law enforcement, calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban certain policing techniques and create a national database of police misconduct.

Cities across the U.S. were already braced for protest this week after demonstrators took to the streets in Atlanta to protest the police killing of 26-year-old Manuel Esteban Paez Teran.

Perez and other social justice activists were protesting a new police training center known as "Cop City" that is planned for what was once a 300-acre Atlanta forest.

Fierce opposition to the development erupted in unrest and vandalism last week. Six people were charged with domestic terrorism related to the riots.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency order on Thursday, authorizing 1,000 National Guard troops to be called up until Feb. 9.

CBS reports that police nationwide have been coordinating a response to possible protests since Monday. On a call last night, police departments across the country were told the body camera footage would be released today.

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Corrected January 27, 2023 at 4:50 PM PST
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the activist killed by police in Atlanta was named Manuel Esteban Perez. In fact, his name was Manuel Esteban Paez Teran.
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