Memphis braced for protests as video of Tire Nichols’ beating by police goes public

Memphis was braced for violence Friday night after the release of police bodycam video showing the beating of Tire Nichols, a black man whose death has led to murder charges against five officers.

Amid outrage over the latest case of police brutality in the US, family members called for all protests to remain peaceful.

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

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

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis described the officers’ actions as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” and said Friday that her department has been unable to substantiate the allegation of reckless driving that led to the stop.

“As far as I know today, I think the stop itself was very questionable,” she said.

Davis said she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later overnight given that protests are expected.

City schools canceled all after-school activities, and Memphis power company community offices and the University of Memphis also closed.

Tire Nichols, who had a passion for photography and was described by friends as happy and lovable


Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said her family is “grief-stricken” and warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video, but called for peaceful protests.

I don’t want us to burn our city, tear up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for, she said Thursday. “If you’re here for me and Tyre, you’ll protest peacefully.”

Davis said, “I expect our citizens to exercise their right to protest, to demand action and results, but we must ensure that our community is safe in this process.

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

Court records showed that all five former officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — were taken into custody.

The officers face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Four of the five had posted jail Friday morning and had been released from custody, according to court and jail records.

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

Attorneys for Nichols’ family, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, released a statement saying he “lost his life in a particularly heinous way that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures , as in this case, a traffic stop.”

President Joe Biden said the Nichols family and the city of Memphis deserve “a swift, full and transparent investigation.”

“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” he added.

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said a full and independent review of the department’s specialized units will be carried out.

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

Police have said he was stopped for reckless driving and at one point fled the scene.

Relatives accuse the police of causing him to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have said only that he experienced a medical emergency.

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