Tyre Nichols traffic stop videos released

Memphis authorities on Friday evening released graphic video showing the arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after a traffic stop on Jan. 10.

Federal, state and local authorities had warned that the footage of five former police officers, who are all Black men, was horrific and appalling, bracing the Memphis community and the country for what they would see.

Over the course of the video, officers pepper-spray, deploy a stun gun and beat Nichols. 

Nichols can be heard repeatedly screaming for his mother throughout the beating. At least one officer can be heard repeatedly yelling for Nichols to “gimme your hands,” though Nichols already appeared to be on the ground.

Final video footage from a police camera mounted on a pole show Nichols surrounded by the officers, with at least three simultaneously punching and kicking him. Officers who were not physically participating in the beating did not intervene or attempt to stop those who were. At least eight officers were present at the scene.

Video of the arrest was taken from polecam, SkyCop and police body camera footage.

The five police officers were fired from the department last week. On Thursday, they were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. 

The officers were part of the SCORPION unit of the Memphis police. Attorneys for Nichols’s family have called for that unit to be disbanded.

SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit, is a 50-person unit that polices particular areas of the city — which disproportionately end up in Black and brown communities, the attorneys argued. 

“What we’ve seen this month in Memphis and for many years in many places, is that the behavior of these units can morph into ‘wolf pack’ misconduct that takes away a person’s liberty or freedom to move, akin to a kidnapping,” attorneys Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in an open letter.

“These often aggressive encounters flat out destruct trust between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve, but as we saw in the tragic and unnecessary death of Tyre Nichols, can also lead to physical injury or death when the culture of unchecked, pro-active policing overtakes common sense.”

Two unidentified firefighters have not been charged, but Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday it is possible more charges could be forthcoming.

Nichols’s family had already seen the video before its release. His stepfather, Rodney Wells, called the footage “horrific.” His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she was unable to watch the full video. 

Crump, the famed civil rights attorney representing the family, likened the footage to that of Rodney King, a Black man brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers during a traffic stop in 1991.

Ahead of the release, Memphis, Tenn., Police Chief Cerelyn Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

Davis on Friday said police decided to release the video on a Friday evening instead of during the workweek so any potential protests would not be as disruptive to people in school or at work. 

Officials in cities around the country are now calling for peaceful protests in response to the video.

The city of Memphis posted four videos on Vimeo. This first clip is from a bodycam and appears to show the first part of the encounter. We see them pull him out of his car and about two minutes into this clip Tyre gets away as police try to tase him. These officers didn’t go after him so there’s nothing more in this clip.

Video #2 is a pole mounted camera. There’s no audio with this one. It lasts for about 30 minutes. You can see pretty clearly in this clip that at least one officer is punching him in the head while the other officers hold him. I count at least five punches. Then at least two officers come over to kick him as he’s face down in the street. At that point I can’t tell if he’s conscious. They drag him over against a car.

This third clip is another bodycam video which appears to be from an officer who joined the chase after Tyre ran for it in the clip above. He’s on the ground and being pepper sprayed. Police then stand him up and one of them is punching him.

Finally the fourth clip is another body camera video. Again this starts with a chase but for several minutes the camera goes black. Later on, Tyre is slumped against a car. Police are saying that Tyre is “high as a kite” and you see him slump over. Earlier he seemed pretty with it. At this point maybe he’s concussed from the punches? He’s seems barely conscious.

One of the officers says he grabbed for another officer’s gun. He also claims that Tyre swung at him as soon as they took him out of the car. Video #1 shows him being pulled out of the car. The police are clearly angry but I can’t see a punch being thrown at them. Even if it was, it didn’t justify beating him repeatedly while his hands were held.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about this case in the next few days.

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