MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officers used a Taser, pepper spray and a baton on a 29-year-old Black driver during a brutal traffic stop that left him hospitalized before he died three days later, according to footage of the violent arrest released Friday.
In one of four videos released Friday by the city of Memphis, officers can be heard yelling at Tyre Nichols to get out of his car and then can be seen forcibly removing him from the car. The video shows officers attempt to use a stun gun on Nichols, who runs away.
Another video shows an officer running toward other officers and Nichols, who is on the ground. The officer threatens to pepper spray Nichols, who is heard repeatedly screaming for his mother. The officer step away, brings out a baton and strikes Nichols while other officers punch him in the face.
One video shows an officer repeatedly strike Nichols while the other officers held him.
All the while, the officers screamed expletives at Nichols.
After the beating, Nichols can be seen sitting against the car and slumping down to the ground as officers discuss the arrest. The four videos come from a SkyCop surveillance camera and officers’ body cameras.
Nichols, an avid skateboarder and FedEx worker who had a 4-year-old son, was hospitalized in critical condition after the stop.
Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” Civil rights attorney Ben Crump called the video “appalling” and compared the assault to the 1991 police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.
Five former officers, who were fired last week, were charged Thursday with second-degree murder and other crimes in connection to Nichols’ death. President Joe Biden joined Nichols’ family in calling for the protests to remain peaceful following the release of the video.
Family calls for peaceful protests:Tense Memphis mourns Tyre Nichols, awaits release of video
Mayor says video is ‘beyond anything I’ve ever seen’
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told The Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network, Friday his initial reaction to the video was sadness and disbelief.
“It’s just beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Then it turned into anger that a fellow human being was treated that way.”
Strickland said he welcomes the independent review of the department’s specialized units.
“It’s obvious that these men violated a policy, violated their training and violated state law,” Strickland said. “So we really need to figure out if there is anything the city can do differently, because we’ve got to do everything we possibly can so this does not happen again.
Police chief talks policing reforms, regaining trust
Davis pledged to hold her officers accountable and “do whatever we have to do to build our relationship with our community,” in an interview with The Commercial Appeal.
“This is the time to prove to our community in spite of this crap, this crisis and the adversities that we’re facing, that we’re in it so that we can rebuild trust that we can work together towards healing and prove to them that we can be trusted in a minor traffic stop,” Davis said.
Davis said she’s reached out to the Department of Justice and the Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct an independent review of the department’s specialized units and some results will be ready to present in coming weeks. She also reiterated her calls for residents to protest peacefully.
—Micaela A. Watts, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Mayor: Unit tied to Nichols’ death ‘inactive’
The unit of the Memphis Police Department linked to the officers charged with killing Nichols is inactive and has been since “this event happened,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wrote in his weekly update Friday afternoon.
It is not clear exactly which day the SCORPION Unit, which stands for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods,” was deactivated.
Friday, members of Nichols’ family and their attorneys called for the SCORPION Unit to be fully disbanded, and for law enforcement agencies around the country to examine their saturation units.
— Katherine Burgess, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Protests planned across the country
Protests have been planned nationwide Friday as law enforcement officials in Memphis prepare to release video of the traffic stop. Organizations and individuals across the country have said they are planning or expecting protests Friday.
Chicago, New York, Detroit and Portland are among the cities where demonstrations may take place.
— Grace Hauck and Marco della Cava, USA TODAY
Biden talks to Nichols’s parents, commends their ‘courage’
Biden spoke by phone Friday afternoon with the parents of Tyre Nichols, telling them that he understands their pain and admires their “courage” after experiencing his own personal losses.
“It’s devastating. I know people will say that to you, but I do know,” Biden can be heard saying in a phone placed on speaker and held by the Nichols family’s attorney Ben Crump. Biden referenced the death of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, and the death of his daughter and first wife in a 1972 car accident.
Biden has been briefed, but not seen the video footage of the traffic stop, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.
— Joey Garrison, USA TODAY
Crump: ‘We have never seen swift justice like this’
Attorney Ben Crump, who has been retained by the family, called the swift nature of the charges and the firing of the officers involved in Nichols’ death “the blueprint” for holding law enforcement accountable in the future.
“We have never seen swift justice like this,” Crump said at a press conference Friday.
Crump said Nichols’ family want his death to lead to police reform including a law that codifies a police officer’s duty to intervene when they see a colleague committing a crime.
Family attorney Antonio Romanucci called for the Memphis police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis to immediately disband the unit some of the officers involved belonged to. The unit is called SCORPION.
RowVaughn Wells again called for justice for her son and thanked the community for supporting her family.
“I still haven’t had time to grieve,” she said. “No mother should go through what I’m going through right now.”
Federal officials call for peaceful protests before release of ‘appalling’ footage
Biden said Nichols’ family deserves a “swift, full and fair investigation” into his death and called for “peaceful protests” after charges against the five former officers were announced.
“We cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people,” Biden said, renewing his call for policing reform legislation that stalled in Congress last year.
Federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death. Friday, FBI Director Chris Wray called video of the encounter “appalling.”
Both Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland appealed for “calm” in advance of any protests following the release of the video.
—Joey Garrison, Rebecca Morin and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
Tyre Nichols traffic stop video:FBI director ‘appalled,’ Garland calls it ‘disturbing’
Memphis police chief: Traffic stop ‘was very questionable’
Davis told Good Morning America on Friday investigators have not been able to verify the allegation that Nichols was driving recklessly before the stop, saying “the stop itself was very questionable.”
Davis, who previously called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” said Wednesday more officers are under investigation.
After-school activities canceled, early closures in Memphis
Memphis-Shelby County Schools canceled all after-school activities scheduled for Friday “out of an abundance of caution.” School officials said they will monitor events and will determine Friday night if Saturday’s events will be canceled.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Tyre Nichols, and those across the Mid-South affected by this tragedy,” school district officials said in a release.
The University of Memphis, restaurants and the city power company’s community offices will also close early.
2 former officers will plead ‘not guilty,’ attorneys say
Defense attorneys Blake Ballin and William Massey said their clients Desmond Mills Jr. and Emmitt Martin III will plead not guilty to the charges they face in connection with Nichols’ death. The defense attorneys said they had not yet seen the video of Nichols’ death.
“No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Massey said. “It’s shocking.”
Ballin said he hopes people who view the video do so “with the understanding that there’s more to the story.”
It was not clear Thursday who represented the other three officers charged in Nichols’ death.
— Micaela A Watts and Katherine Burgess, Memphis Commercial Appeal
What happened to Tyre Nichols during the traffic stop?
Officers pulled Nichols over around 8:30 p.m. Jan. 7 on suspicion of reckless driving and a “confrontation” ensued, according to a statement from Memphis police. Nichols fled, was arrested and another “confrontation” happened, police said. Police have not clarified what happened during those “confrontations.”
Nichols later “complained of a shortness of breath,” and was hospitalized in critical condition, police said.
Preliminary findings of an independent autopsy showed Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” Nichols’ family’s attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a joint statement.
Nichols was “kicked” and was subjected to “multiple uses of force” during the “unadulterated…beating of [Nichols] for three minutes,” Romanucci said. Crump said the video showed Nichols was shocked, pepper-sprayed and restrained.
Five officers charged in Tyre Nichols death
Former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin III and Desmond Mills Jr. have each been charged with one count of second-degree murder, aggravated assault – acting in concert, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and one count of official oppression, court records show.
The five men, who are all Black, were booked at the Shelby County Jail, and all posted bond Thursday, with bonds ranging between $250,000 and $350,000.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
Two Memphis firefighters were also “relieved of duty” pending an internal investigation into their actions after the stop, a fire department spokeswoman said. The internal investigation into the fire department’s involvement in Nichols’ initial care will be finished next week, officials said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg