Tyre Nichols video: 'You're going to see acts that defy humanity,' police say

Video footage of incident involving five Memphis officers to be released as US braces for protests

Tyre Nichols's stepfather Rodney Wells, centre, stands beside a photo of his son in hospital after his arrest. AP
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Police in Memphis, Tennessee, are set to release bodycam footage on Friday showing a brutal interaction between Tyre Nichols, an unarmed black man, and five officers during a reckless driving stop. He died days later.

“You're going to see acts that defy humanity,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in a CNN interview.

“You're going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we're all sworn to and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement.”

Mr Nichols, 29, died in hospital three days after he suffered injuries during his January 7 arrest.

President Joe Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr Nichols's mother and stepfather. He offered them his condolences and "commended the family's courage and strength", the White House said.

A Tennessee grand jury on Thursday charged the five officers — who were also black — with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Mr Nichols had been pulled over while driving and “an altercation” ensued in which he was pepper-sprayed, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy. He then tried to flee on foot.

“There was another altercation at a nearby location at which the serious injuries were experienced by Mr Nichols,” said Mr Mulroy.

The video is expected to include footage from body cameras worn by officers, police vehicle dashboard cameras and other security cameras.

The footage will be released in four parts on YouTube at 7pm ET on Friday, according to police officials.

Lawyers for Mr Nichols's family said the incident marks “absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death”.

“Tyre's loved ones' lives were forever changed when he was beaten to death, and we will keep saying his name until justice is served,” lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said.

“This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop.”

Mr Crump said the final words that could be heard on the video were Mr Nichols calling for his mother.

The lawyer compared the death of Mr Nichols to that of Rodney King, a black motorist whose beating by officers belonging to the Los Angeles Police Department sparked violent protests across the city in 1992.

The Nichols family viewed the bodycam footage with Mr Crump on Monday.

Ms Wells told CNN “they beat my son like a piñata”.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference that he has yet to see the video but has been briefed on it.

“It is deeply disturbing … horrific from the descriptions I've been given,” he said.

He added that the Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights investigation, and that he met the family to express the department's condolences as well as his own.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has seen the footage, said that he was “appalled”.

“I am struggling to find a strong word but I will just tell you the FBI is working with the Justice Department [and] takes great pride in our code of law investigations,” Mr Wray said.

“We will pursue … an investigation here, will do it professionally without fear or favour, by the book.”

The officers involved in the altercation were dismissed from the police force last week.

Chief Davis called for protests to remain peaceful when the video is made public.

“This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane … you will see this for yourselves,” she said in a video posted on YouTube.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to outrage in the disregard of basic human rights.”

She added that the Memphis Police would fully co-operate with federal and state agencies.

President Joe Biden has called for a transparent investigation into Mr Nichols's death and for non-violent protests when the bodycam footage is released.

“As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest,” Mr Biden said.

Lawyers for two of the police officers said they were still developing their legal defence, and their clients were posting bond to be released from jail.

Updated: January 27, 2023, 9:50 PM