- On January 8, Memphis police released a statement about a “confrontation” with a reckless driver.
- Tire Nichols died from injuries from a “use of force incident” that occurred during the traffic stop.
- New bodycam video shows officers punching Nichols, something left out of the police version of events.
On January 8, the Memphis Police Department released a statement describing a “confrontation” with an allegedly reckless driver, later identified as Tire Nichols. But body camera footage of the incident, released on Friday, revealed a different story about the brutal beating that left the 29-year-old dead.
“On January 7, 2023, at approximately 8:30 p.m., officers in the area of Raines Road and Ross Road attempted a traffic stop for reckless driving,” says the original Memphis Police Department statement read. “When officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation ensued and the suspect fled the scene on foot.”
—Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) 8 January 2023
The statement continued, “Officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was eventually apprehended. Afterwards, the suspect complained of shortness of breath, after which time an ambulance was called to the scene. The suspect was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said Thursday that officers had no evidence to pull Nichols over, and has called the video “abhorrent, callous and inhumane.”
“We’ve looked at cameras, we’ve looked at body-worn cameras, and even if something happened prior to the stop, we haven’t been able to substantiate that at this point,” Davis told CNN. – We have not been able to substantiate the reckless driving.
Bodycam footage released by the City of Memphis on Friday revealed that the “confrontation” was actually a 5-on-1 takedown of Nichols that his attorneys described as officers hitting the man like a “human pinata” as he yelled for his mother . Nichols died three days after the stop.
Less than three weeks after the first incident, five of the officers involved in the incident were charged with second-degree murder. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been placed on leave pending an investigation into their conduct, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Department released Friday.
The Shelby Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. The Memphis Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the investigation into the incident, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Before the video was released, the Memphis police chief described the stop as “abhorrent” and “inhumane.”
The videos, released in four parts showing perspectives from different officers’ body cameras, show no reckless driving on Nichols’ part and begin with a tense scene of officers ordering him from the car.
In one video, an officer can be heard ordering Nichols to “get the hell out of the damn car.” After Nichols replies that he “didn’t do anything”, the officer pulls him out of the car and throws him to the ground.
“I’m gonna take your ass,” the officer can be heard saying.
Nichols gets up and struggles with the officer before the officer deploys his Taser, missing Nichols. Then he runs away.
Another officer can be heard saying: “I hope they step on his ass.”
In another bodycam video, Nichols can be repeatedly stomped on and punched by officers as he calls out for his mother. Later in the footage, Nichols’ shouting becomes less coherent, his speech slurs, and he struggles to stand up.
The Memphis Police Department’s original statement did not mention the officer’s conduct that led to Nichols being transported to the hospital, although a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 10 statement said he “succumbed to the injuries”.
—Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) 10 January 2023
Legal experts told Insider that the footage reveals a “breakdown” in police protocol and described the incident as “exaggerated.”
“There is no reason why five officers need to reduce themselves to closed fists to subdue a suspect who does not appear to be violent back, but at worst can be said to be disobeying their orders,” Joshua Ritter, a criminal Los Angeles defense attorney, former prosecutor and partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, told Insider about the footage.
Nationwide protests against police brutality have gathered steam as people react to the video footage, prompting comparisons to the 2020 video of George Floyd’s death, when officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes as Floyd cried that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for Floyd’s murder.
Instead of circulating the bodycam footage of Nichols’ death, which experts say could do more harm than good, many activists are spreading videos of him skateboarding to remember him as someone who “lived in joy.”