‘I’m just trying to go home’: Tyre Nichols heard pleading in released video
A group of Tennessee police officers punched and kicked Tyre Nichols –delivering at least a half-dozen blows – as he languished on the ground, crying out for his mother, during a 7 January beating that would result in his death, surveillance footage released on Friday night revealed. The deadly attack on Nichols reportedly unfolded about 80 yards from his mother’s home.
The disturbing video, which was released in four parts by the Memphis police department, included both body-camera and street lamp-mounted camera video showing the attack on Nichols, who is Black. While Nichols’s injuries were clearly severe, and his physical condition in obvious decline, the video indicates that an ambulance did not arrive for more than 20 minutes after the vicious beatdown.
The four videos made public provide a rough chronology of the fatal encounter between Nichols and the five Black police officers. The incident started when two Memphis police officers pulled him over in a traffic stop.
“Get the fuck out of the car!” one officer shouted several times. An officer pulled him out of the car.
Nichols replied: “I didn’t do anything”. An officer said, “Get on the fucking ground” and warned that he would “Tase” Nichols.
Nichols, 29, tells them: “I’m on the ground.”
“You guys are really doing a lot now,” Nichols also said. “I’m just trying to go home.”
Nichols, who was brought to the ground, wound up running from the officers. “I hope they stomp his ass,” one of the officers could be heard saying. The fatal beating unfolded when other officers later apprehended him at an intersection.
Some of the chaotic footage shows officers punching and kicking Nichols. One officer shouted that he would “baton the fuck outta you”.
Related: Tyre Nichols’s mother urges to ‘protest in peace’ as US cities brace for response
Video from the camera attached to a light pole provided the broadest – and most wrenching – view of the beating. As Nichols, who appeared cuffed, remained on the ground, one officer kicked him in the head and then did so again.
As multiple officers restrained Nichols, who did not appear to be resisting or presenting any threat to them, another officer repeatedly struck him with a baton.
Officers then appear to bring Nichols to his feet. He was repeatedly punched and, when he fell to the ground, was kicked again. They dragged Nichols’s limp body to a police car shortly thereafter and sat him against the side.
None of the officers involved appeared to stop the beating or help Nichols. This video appears to show eight officers milling about as he languished against the car.
As video of the deadly beating was released, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the US. The protests around the US were overwhelmingly peaceful.
Protesters in Memphis marched on a highway and chanted, “Say his name”. In New York City, a group of protesters marched near Times Square; the police department said there were three arrests on allegations ranging from criminal mischief to assault.
Joe Biden had urged peaceful demonstrations, while acknowledging the deep anger stoked by the attack, saying: “Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment and dignity for all.”
After the video footage was released, Biden said: “Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’s death. 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.”
Five former Memphis police officers involved in the fatal encounter were charged on Thursday with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression in the death of Nichols, who succumbed to his injuries on 10 January.
However, the video shows that more than five officers were present at points during the incident including after the beating, when Nichols reeled from his injuries and was not have taken to hospital in an expedient manner.
“While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and they are all responsible,” Steve Mulroy, the Shelby county district attorney, told reporters on Thursday.
Related: ‘He had a beautiful soul’: Tyre Nichols’s parents reflect on the son who was taken from them
Police officials initially claimed that a “confrontation” unfolded when officers approached Nichols’s vehicle, followed by another “confrontation” upon his arrest.
The five officers, who are Black – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith – were fired last week. They are due in court on 17 February for their arraignment, CNN reported.
Mills’ attorney, Blake Ballin, insisted that his client didn’t engage in the same misconduct as other officers who were involved. In a statement reported by CNN, Ballin said the footage “produced as many questions as they have answers”.
The Memphis police department said the men broke “multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid”.
The city’s police chief, CJ Davis, described the deadly incident as “heinous, reckless and inhumane”.
“Aside from being your chief of police, I am a citizen of this community we share,” Davis remarked in a video on 25 January. “I am a mother, I am a caring human being who wants the best for all of us.”
“This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual … and in the vein of transparency when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.”
The Memphis Police Union issued a statement following the release of the video, saying it is “committed to the administration of justice and NEVER condones the mistreatment of ANY citizen nor ANY abuse of power. It added: “We have faith in the criminal justice system. That faith is what we will lean on in the coming days, weeks, and months to ensure the totality of circumstances is revealed.”
Shelby county, Tennessee sheriff Floyd Bonner announced on Friday night that two deputies had been relieved of duty in relation to the events.
“Having watched the video for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols,” Bonner said in a tweet. “I have launched an internal investigation into the conduct of these deputies to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated.
“Both of these deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation.”
Nichols’s family members and their attorneys viewed the video earlier this week. One attorney said that Nichols was attacked for three minutes.
The family’s legal team reportedly said an independent autopsy showed that Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating”.
“He was a human piñata for those police officers,” one family attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said to reporters. “Not only was it violent, it was savage.”
There’s a lot more questions that need to be answered after this video has been made public
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney on the family’s legal team, said, “Tyre was brutalized by Memphis police, much like how Rodney King was beaten more than 30 years ago – but unlike Rodney, Tyre lost his life from this violent attack.”
Following the release of the video, Crump said that while Nichols’s mother couldn’t watch the video, she wanted others to do so, believing that “people need to see how and why her son was killed”.
Crump also said that he had received inquiries about why other officers, including a white officer present, hadn’t been charged. “There’s a lot more questions that need to be answered after this video has been made public.”
Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush said more must be done to prevent police violence–and that Congress needed to act, arguing “charging the officers who brutalized Tyre is not enough”.
“Our country will continue to sanction the taking of Black lives with impunity until it embraces an affirmative vision of public safety and dismantles its racist policing system rooted in enslavement and government control,” Bush said in a statement. “And let’s be clear: merely diversifying police forces will never address the violent, racist architecture that underpins our entire criminal legal system. The mere presence of Black officers does not stop policing from being a tool of white supremacy.”
Leaders of other police departments across the country have decried the violence shown in the video. “The NYPD and the communities we serve are collectively outraged at the death of Tyre Nichols in the custody of the Memphis police department,” the department commissioner, Keechant L Sewell, said in a statement. “The disgraceful actions depicted in the released video are an unequivocal violation of our oath to protect those we serve, and a failure of basic human decency.”