MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officers used a stun gun, pepper spray and a baton on a 29-year-old Black driver, hitting him at least 13 times 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 steps away, brings out a baton and strikes Nichols while other officers punch him in the face.
One video shows an officer repeatedly striking 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.
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Nichols, an avid skateboarder and FedEx worker who had a 4-year-old son, was hospitalized in critical condition after he was beaten by police.
Police 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.
Protests planned:Protests seen in Chicago, expected nationwide after release of video of Tyre Nichols killing in Memphis
‘I didn’t do anything:’ First video shows initial stop of Nichols
The first video is from an officer’s body camera and lasts about 11 minutes. It shows at least three officers approaching a vehicle stopped at a red light. Officers pull Nichols from the vehicle as he yells, “I didn’t do anything.”
Multiple officers forcibly push him to the ground, yelling expletives. Nichols responds in an even tone that he is on the ground.
The officers push him down further, with hands on his back, arms and shoulders. One says, “B—– put your hands behind your back before I break them.”
“You guys are really doing a lot now,” Nichols says. “I’m just trying to go home.”
Multiple officers repeat commands to Nichols to lie down, as Nichols is already on his side on the ground. “If you don’t lay down—”
“I am on the ground!” Nichols says back, raising his own voice.
There is a brief scuffle and the view from the body camera is blocked, then Nichols is seen standing up and starting to run, while the officer with the stun gun deploys it.
“Taser was deployed,” the officer wearing the body camera says into his radio while describing where Nichols ran. “Young male, Black, slim build, blue jeans and a hoodie.”
Surveillance video shows officers beating Nichols
The second video, about 30 minutes long, is silent, taken from a SkyCop surveillance camera at a second location. The camera swivels to show two officers violently pushing Nichols to the ground on his face as he tries to turn over. Then, a third officer appears to kick Nichols multiple times in the face.
A fourth officer looks on, before walking over to strike at Nichols with a baton.
Nichols manages to get back on his feet before officers appear to punch him in the face multiple times. Then, three officers force him back onto the ground.
More officers come into the frame, with one officer attempting to hold down Nichols’ feet. One officer seems to kick him again.
Then, the officers back away as Nichols lays nearly prone on the ground, moving his legs but unable to get up.
Officers proceed to drag Nichols across the concrete to lean him against a police car. At this point, at least six officers are present.
The minutes stretch on as Nichols lies against the car, with more officers clustering around. At one point, Nichols appears to slump off of the car and lie fully on the ground.
It is not until 28 minutes into the second video that a stretcher is brought for Nichols.
Officers use pepper spray, baton on Nichols in third video
The third video released by the city is about six minutes long and comes from an officer’s body camera. The officer arrives on scene and begins pursuing Nichols on foot. Nichols is being restrained on the pavement and struck by other officers.
“You about to get sprayed again” an officer says before repeatedly pepper spraying Nichols.
Nichols can be heard calling out for his mother as officers repeatedly demand he give them his hands.
The officer appears to be affected by his own pepper spray and briefly walks away from the struggle several times.
“I’m going to baton the f— out you,” one officer said before striking Nichols repeatedly. As Nichols struggles to his feet, an officer punches him in the face.
More officers arrive on scene and the video ends as the officer walks away from the scene.
Officers discuss stop in fourth video
The fourth video, also taken from an officer’s body camera, appears to be a repeat of the second and third videos. The videos contain redactions, such as license plates and what appears to be a cell phone.
An officer is seen running as Nichols is lying on the ground as he repeatedly yells out “mom” as the officers kick and punch him.
“Give me your f—— hands” an officer repeatedly yells at Nichols, instructing him to “lay flat.”
A man, seemingly Nichols, repeatedly cries out in pain as the body camera stops. It’s unclear if the officer has removed the camera or covered it.
After, as Nichols’ body is slumped against a vehicle, occasionally moaning in pain, the officers stand around and discuss the stop.
“You alright,” one officer asks his colleague after the beating.
“Yeah, I’m straight,” the man responds.
An officer complains his leg and knee are hurting. The officers claim Nichols is “high.”
The officers are heard laughing. They claim Nichols was reaching for one of their guns, which the videos do not appear to show.
“We got him out of the car, m———– swung,” an officer says, it’s unclear who he is referring to.
The officers claim Nichols would not pull over for a traffic stop and instead was “swerving” and nearly hit a police vehicle. Nichols then stopped at a red light, they claim.
Minutes later, Nichols is seen moaning and moving as if he is trying to stand.
“You can’t go nowhere,” an officer tells him.
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.
In another interview with Good Morning America, Davis called the stop “questionable.”
—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
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.”
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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.
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.
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 [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg