Memphis releases videos of deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols

Protests were held in several US cities after footage of the arrest was released, with more planned

Memphis Police release footage of officers beating Tyre Nichols

Memphis Police release footage of officers beating Tyre Nichols
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The US city of Memphis, Tennessee, has released videos showing police beating an unarmed black man Tyre Nichols days before he died.

Video footage from January 7 showed police pulling over Mr Nichols for alleged reckless driving and soon after officers pulling him out of his car to the ground.

“I'm just trying to get home,” Mr Nichols is heard saying before he runs away. He later yells repeatedly for his mother.

Further videos show other officers confronting Mr Nichols after he ran away from where he was first stopped, using pepper spray and a Taser. He was beaten by five black police officers.

He was hit in the face several times while he was restrained, the footage shows. An officer is seen using a baton to strike Mr Nichols.

Later, surveillance video shows Mr Nichols sitting on the ground, propped up against a police car while handcuffed, as a group of officers stand around talking and not providing medical help.

Mr Nichols, 29, died in hospital three days after the January 7 arrest.

The five police officers involved were arrested and charged on Thursday with second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Two deputies who appeared on the scene after the beating were relieved of their duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said in a statement late on Friday.

The city of Memphis disbanded the special police unit to which the officers belonged, announcing on Saturday it had deactivated the unit, known as Scorpion, which was launched in 2021 to reduce illegal activity by assigning more police to high-crime areas.

Memphis Police Department said it was “in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion Unit,” which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighbourhoods.

“The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step,” the department added.

Several dozen demonstrators called for police reform on Saturday afternoon as they gathered in front of city hall, shouting “No justice, no peace!” and carrying signs with slogans such as “Justice for Tyre Nichols.”

At one point, a police car was surrounded by a group of angry, chanting protesters.

Memphis City Council member JB Smiley Jr addressed the crowd, speaking to protesters in the rain.

“Memphis has an opportunity to set the standard on how to respond to actions like this,” he told them.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis told the Associated Press in an interview before the videos were released that the officers' actions were “heinous, reckless and inhumane”.

She also said her department was unable to find video proof that Mr Nichols was recklessly driving, which was used as the reason for the police stop.

“All we know is the amount of force that was applied in this situation was over the top,” she said.

Largely peaceful protests were held in Memphis and several other cities, including Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit, following the release of the videos.

More protests were expected, with the White House saying that senior staff had briefed the mayors of more than a dozen cities, including Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia, on federal assistance in case of violence.

Protests erupt following deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols — in pictures

President Joe Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr Nichols's mother and stepfather, on Friday night, the White House said, and he offered them his condolences and “commended the family's courage and strength”.

Mr Biden later called for protesters to remain peaceful and for a full investigation into the beating.

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death,” he said.

“It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every single day.”

Updated: June 22, 2023, 11:23 AM