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Memphis releases video of police beating Tire Nichols to death

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Authorities released police video on Friday showing five Memphis officers beating a black man whose death has prompted murder charges and sparked outrage over the latest case of police brutality in the country. Members of Tire Nichols’ family pleaded for any protest to remain peaceful.

The officers, who are all black, were charged on Thursday with the murder of Nichols, a motorist who died three days after a Jan. 7 confrontation with officers during a traffic stop.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference that although the officers each played a different role in the murder, “they are all responsible.”

Nichols’ family members and their attorneys say the footage shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault the legal team has likened to the infamous beating of 1991 police against Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

“This young man, by definition of the law in this state, was terrorized. Not by one, not by two, but by five officers that we now know…acted in concert with each other,” the statement said. attorney Antonio Romanucci, who represents Nichols’ family.

The officers “acted together … to inflict damage, terrorism, oppression of freedom, oppression of constitutional rights, which led to murder,” Romanucci said.

Memphis Police Superintendent Cerelyn Davis described the officers’ actions as “abhorrent, reckless and inhumane” and said her department was unable to prove the reckless driving allegation that prompted the ‘stop.

She told The Associated Press in an interview that there was no video of the traffic stop that shows Nichols driving recklessly.

During the initial shutdown, video shows officers were “already reinforced, at about 10,” she said. The officers were “aggressive, loud, using profane language and likely scared off Mr. Nichols from the start”.

“We know something happened before that officer or officers got out of their vehicles… Just knowing the nature of the officers, it takes something to turn them on, you know, like that. We don’t know what happened,” she said. said.

“All we know is that the force applied in this situation was overkill,” Davis said.

Mulroy said investigators wanted to do as many interviews as possible before making the footage public. Nichols’ family members viewed the video on Monday.

Given the likelihood of protests, Davis told ABC that she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later in the day, after schools close and people return from the work.

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace.

“I don’t want our town burned down, the streets torn up, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said Thursday. “If you are here for me and Tyre then you will protest peacefully.”

Davis also called for calm after the video was released.

“None of this is a calling card to incite violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens,” she said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “appalled” by the video and that all FBI field agents have been alerted to work with state and local partners, including in Memphis, “just in case something would get out of hand”.

Andre E. Johnson, pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries and local activist, noted that past protests in Memphis have been largely peaceful. He said the anticipation of unrest was different from white people storming the US Capitol or “showing up at any state house with weapons”, and said members of the community see the contrast.

“Anytime violence has happened in this town, it’s more than likely come from the police,” he said. “I pray that the police tonight are not violent, and I pray that everything goes well.”

Court records showed the five former officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith – were arrested.

The officers each face charges of second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Four of the five officers had posted bond and were released Friday morning, according to court and jail records.

Martin’s attorney, William Massey, and Mills’ attorney, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Smith, Bean and Haley could not be reached.

“Nobody there that night had any intention of putting Tire Nichols to death,” Massey said.

The two lawyers said they had not seen the video.

“We are in the dark about a lot of things, just like the general public,” Ballin said.

Second degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, condemned the alleged actions of the Memphis officers.

“The event as described to us does not constitute legitimate police work or a traffic stop gone wrong. It is a criminal assault under the guise of law,” Yoes said in a statement. .

Rallies and demonstrations were scheduled for Friday night in Memphis, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Portland, Oregon and Washington.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, said he and other mayors around the country were briefed by the White House before the video was released, which he said would “cause pain and sadness in many of us”. us angry.”

Romanucci and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also represents Nichols’ family, called on the police chief to disband the department’s so-called scorpion unit focused on street crime.

Nichols “has always been an innocent victim,” Romanucci said Friday. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He got caught in a sting. This scorpion unit was designed to saturate under the guise of crime-fighting, and what they ended up doing instead, it’s to create an ongoing pattern and practice of bad behavior.”

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violations of department policy. In addition, she said that “a full and independent review” will be carried out on the department’s specialized units, without giving further details.

Two firefighters were also dismissed.

As state and federal investigations continue, Davis pledged the “full cooperation” of the police department.

Crump said the video showed Nichols being shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained when he was arrested near his home. He was returning from a suburban park where he had taken pictures of the sunset.

Relatives accused police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities said only that Nichols suffered a medical emergency.


Associated Press reporters Aaron Morrison in New York; Travis Loller in Nashville, TN; and Rebecca Reynolds in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

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