Tyre Nichols can be seen being pulled out of his car by police officers, pepper sprayed, kicked and hit with both fists and batons in four videos released Friday by the Memphis Police Department. Nichols died three days after the violent encounter on Jan. 7, and five officers have been charged with his murder.
The videos released by the Memphis Police Department on Friday began with a traffic stop.
Body camera video of an officer who appears to arrive at the traffic stop after Nichols' car is stopped captures aggressive comments, including by the officer — pointing a gun or taser at the car — yelling that “you’re going to get your a-- blown the f--- out,” NBC News reported.
“Damn, I didn’t do anything,” Nichols, who was Black, is heard saying as another officer yanks him from the car, while officers are heard shouting obscenities.
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Once on the pavement, Nichols says, “All right, I’m on the ground” and “All, right stop” and “OK” as officers scream commands and obscenities at him, the video shows. One officer says “I’ll break your s---.” Nichols is also threatened with being knocked out.
“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Nichols says in the video. “I’m just trying to go home.”
Officers shout at him to lay down, and Nichols, who is on the ground, says “I am.” An officer appears to spray him with pepper spray in the video.
Nichols eventually gets up and runs, the video shows.
The video is available here. Warning: It shows graphic violence that could be disturbing.
In one of the body camera videos, Nichols is on the ground and appeared to be punched several times in the head area by two officers standing over him. Nichols appears to cover his head area. He then yells "Mom." He also appears to be pepper sprayed, part of the video shows.
Some of the most graphic footage was captured by an overheard camera directly above three officers. It showed two officers who appear to be holding each of Nichols' arms while another rains blows on his face.
After a prone Nichols had been kicked multiple times in the face or upper body, he was then helped to his feet by two officers, footage showed.
As they held him, another officer could be seen punching Nichols five times in the face, under a Castlegate Lane street sign.
Afterward, while Nichols lay on the ground, propped against a police car, officers discussed hitting him. Two claimed he reached for their guns.
It took 26 minutes for a stretcher to appear on the scene where Nichols was laying on the ground.
"Just awful. Cowards, just cowards," Cheryl Dorsey, a former Los Angeles police sergeant, told NBC News Now while watching the video. "There are no words for what these officers are doing."
Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said in a statement late Friday that two deputies who appeared on the scene after the beating have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Nichols' death has provoked outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality. Family members of Tyre Nichols pleaded for any protests to remain peaceful.
Late Friday, protesters and police unions around the country were condemning Memphis police. Protesters gathered in a park near the White House, in Memphis and other cities as the video was released.
In Memphis, hundreds of protesters chanted: “Say his name! Tyre Nichols!” and several dozen protesters blocked a heavily traveled bridge on Interstate 55 that is one of two main spans connecting Arkansas and Tennessee over the Mississippi River.
Unions in California and Hawaii issued a joint statement calling the actions of the officers “repugnant and the complete antithesis of how honorable law enforcement professionals conduct themselves.”
The Prosecutors Alliance of California calls the killing senseless and in California’s capitol of Sacramento, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said: “I am filled with anger, with sorrow and revulsion.”
In Capitol Hill, some Democrats on Friday called for reviving the defunct George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would have lowered the threshold for federal wrongdoing convictions for officers, restricted law enforcement’s use of qualified immunity to hide from liability, and limited police use of physical restraint methods like chokeholds.
Five officers, all of whom are Black, were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Nichols, a motorist who died three days after the confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told a news conference that although the officers each played different roles in the killing, “they are all responsible.”
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 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 been released from custody by Friday morning, according to court and jail records.
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 reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.
“As far as I know today, I do believe that the stop itself was very questionable,” she told ABC's “Good Morning America.”
Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace.
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said Thursday. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Martin’s lawyer, William Massey, and Mills’ lawyer, Blake Ballin, said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Smith, Bean and Haley could not be reached.
“No one out there that night intended for Tyre Nichols to die,” Massey said.
At the time, both lawyers said they had not seen the video.
“We are in the dark about many things, just like the general public is,” Ballin said.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said “a complete and independent review” will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.
Two fire department workers were also removed from duty over the Nichols’ arrest.
As state and federal investigations continue, Davis promised the police department’s “full and complete cooperation” to determine what contributed to Nichols’ Jan. 10 death.
Relatives have accused the police of causing Nichols to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
One of the officers, Haley, was accused previously of using excessive force. He was named as a defendant in a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit while employed by the Shelby County Division of Corrections.
The claims were ultimately dismissed after a judge ruled that the plaintiff had failed to file a grievance against the officers within 30 days of the incident.
Of the Memphis Police Department's 2,006 commissioned officers, 1,194, or 59.5%, are Black, police spokesperson Karen Rudolph said.