The city of Memphis released long-awaited footage Friday night of the violent arrest of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, showing what prosecutors say was a police beating that directly caused his death earlier this month (warning: the videos contain graphic content).
The roughly hour of footage was made public shortly after 6 p.m. Central time, which included both police body camera video and footage from stationary cameras.
Numerous law enforcement officials who saw the video expressed outrage at Nichols’ treatment, with FBI Director Christopher Wray saying he was “appalled” and Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis calling it “about the same, if not worse” than the 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King, which led to riots.
Authorities and Nichols’ family have called for any protests in response to the video to remain peaceful, though Wray said Friday morning FBI field offices—and Memphis’ in particular—have prepared for demonstrations “getting out of hand.”
“I would have to say I don’t think I’ve ever been more horrified and disgusted,” Davis told ABC News of the video.
Many key questions about Nichols’ confrontation with police remained unanswered ahead of the video release, like why at least five police officers were involved in what authorities say started as a routine traffic stop, what their roles in Nichols’ arrest were and how the situation turned so violent. Five officers allegedly involved in the arrest were charged with second-degree murder Thursday, along with several other counts, including aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct through the exercise of power. Nichols was taken to a hospital in critical condition on January 7 after being pulled over for alleged reckless driving—he died three days later from excessive blood loss. All five officers have been released from custody after posting bail–Emmitt Martin III and Demetrius Haley were each released on $350,000 bonds, while bond for officers Tadarrius Bean, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith was set at $250,000. They have not entered pleas yet, but attorneys for Martin and Mills have both said they intend to plead not guilty.
Memphis police called in a specialized unit called SCORPION to intervene in Nichols’ arrest. The unit was created in 2021 with a goal of targeted deployment focused on violent crimes. An attorney for Nichols’ family has asked for the unit to be abolished, and Davis ordered a review of the group after Nichols’ death.
What To Watch For
Nichols’ funeral is set for Wednesday. Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy.
Criminal justice reform activists say Nichols’ death is just the latest example of police brutality against Black men due to a system that is inherently racist. But the racial dynamic in Nichols’ case is different than other deaths tied to police, like George Floyd’s murder in 2020 by a white police officer, as all five officers charged in Nichols’ death are Black.
FBI Chief ‘Appalled’ At Violent Video Of Tyre Nichols Arrest Ahead Of Public Release (Forbes)
Tyre Nichols’ Killing: 5 Memphis Police Officers Charged With Murder (Forbes)