© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tire Nichols, who died in hospital on January 10, three days after being injured while in police custody, is seen in this undated photo taken from the social network. Facebook/Deandre Nichols/via REUTERS
By Alyssa Pointer and Brendan O’Brien
MEMPHIS, Tenn. a traffic stop earlier this month.
A video clip shows officers pulling Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car as he screams, “Damn, I’m not doing anything… I’m just trying to get home,” then presses him. He fell to the ground when they ordered him to lie on his stomach and pepper sprayed his face.
Nichols then broke free, scrambled to his feet, and sped off down a street with officers chasing him on foot; at least one person fired a stun gun at him.
A separate video shows a struggle that followed after officers caught up with Nichols again and hit him. Two officers were seen holding him back as a third kicked him and a fourth delivered what appeared to be a stick before another punched Nichols.
Nichols was heard repeatedly shouting, “Mom! Mom!” when he struggled with the officers. His mother said her son was only about 80 meters from home when he was beaten. A stretcher was seen 19 minutes after the first paramedics arrived on the scene.
Four segments of highly-anticipated footage from police body-worn cameras and pole-mounted cameras were posted online a day after officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping. , official misconduct and oppression.
The officers, all of whom are Black, were fired from the police department last Saturday following a confrontation with Nichols on January 7 after pulling him back.
He succumbed to his injuries and died three days later on admission.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis and attorneys for the Nichols family, who viewed the video with his loved ones before it was released, warned that the images were brutal and potentially offensive. outrage, and at the same time appealed to the public to calm down.
“You’re going to see actions that defy humanity,” Davis told CNN when describing the footage.
When the video first surfaced and was broadcast on CNN and other news outlets, television images showed a large group of protesters gathering in Memphis, shouting, “no justice, no peace.” and carried placards that read “People demand: Stop police terrorism”. .” Protesters appeared to have blocked traffic at one point on Interstate 55.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing the Nichols family, earlier in the day called on the city’s police department to disband the SCORPIONS unit, a team believed to focus on violent street crime and at least one The number of officers concerned has been assigned. .
RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tire Nichols, said: “No mother should go through what I’m going through right now, no mother, to lose their child in the same violent way that I lost them. his child”.
US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged” and “deeply hurt” after seeing the video of Memphis.
The footage has the potential to turn Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old described as an accomplished, likable skateboarder who recently signed up for a photography class, the next face of the style. American racial justice movement.
Growing up in Sacramento, California, before the coronavirus pandemic, Nichols moved to the Memphis area, where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx (NYSE:), taking a break every day to return home. home for meals prepared by his mother.
BIDEN SAYS TO FAMILY
The Nichols family and President Joe Biden have called for peaceful protests in Memphis, a city of 628,000 with nearly 65% of the population being Black. Schools were scheduled to close early and Saturday morning events were cancelled.
Biden spoke to RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, Friday afternoon to express condolences, the White House said, adding that they were coordinating with relevant government agencies. in case the protests turn violent.
Nichols’ death marks the latest high-profile case of police officers accused of using excessive force in the deaths of Blacks and other minorities in recent years. These have been publicly denounced as systemic racism in the US criminal justice system.
Protests under the banner of the “Black Lives Matter” movement against racial injustice have broken out across the globe following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man has died after a a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Antonio Romanucci, another attorney for the Nichols family, told National Public Radio in an interview on Friday that Nichols was a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and “basically died for his cause. .”
US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced a federal civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death, while law enforcement agencies in several major cities, including New York, Atlanta and Washington, said it was preparing for possible protests after the video was released.
TRAFFIC STOP STARTS THE EVENT CHAIN
Police described the circumstances of Nichols’ arrest vaguely. Even Shelby District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who sought the officers’ indictment, was cautious about releasing the charges.
After Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, “an altercation” ensued, in which officers sprayed him with pepper spray, and Nichols attempted to flee on foot, Mulroy said. . “There was another altercation at a nearby location in which Mr Nichols was severely injured.”
Davis said her department has not yet been able to determine if there was a probable cause for officers to stop Nichols for reckless driving, a traffic stop that triggered violent events. afterward.
Crump said the speed with which criminal charges were brought against officers – less than three weeks after Nichols’ death – should be a benchmark for police-related homicides.
In some other well-known cases, such as the police killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in 2014, more than a year passed before the police video was released and the charges filed.
Crump compared the encounter to the beating of black motorcyclist Rodney King, which was videotaped in 1991 by four police officers, who were later acquitted of the criminal charge of causing days of riots. in Los Angeles.
Records show that Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean, who were fired along with another officer following Nichols’ death, were released on bail after they were brought in. Shelby County Jail on Thursday morning.