The nation recoils as footage of Tyre Nichols’ beating Memphis PD is released
The 29-year old died Jan. 10 after getting beaten by five Black Memphis officers who pulled him over.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
On Friday, Jan. 27, the nation reeled as they watched the body cam footage released by the Memphis Police Department showing the brutal beating of 29-year old, Tyre Nichols, at the hands of five Black officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Nichols, a Fed-Ex worker and father, became the U.S.’s latest Black victim of a fatal law enforcement encounter. He died three days later on Jan. 10 from his injuries. Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told CNN that he went into cardiac arrest, experienced kidney failure, and sustained a broken neck.
The five Black officers were fired last week, and a grand jury returned indictments on Thursday, Jan. 26, against the officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — with charges including kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, as well as second-degree murder, according to prosecutors. A sixth officer has also since been relieved of his duty.
The Memphis District Attorney, Steven J. Mulroy, also said Thursday, that all five of men were responsible for the death of Nichols, even if they all played a different role.
“The actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols, and they are all responsible,” he told reporters.
Compared to the infamous 1991 assault of L.A. motorist Rodney King by L.A. police, Nichols’ death raises not only huge red flags, but also questions as to how this country finds itself, more often than not, murdering Black citizens and other communities of color when they encounter police.
Following the release of the video Friday night, cities across the nation braced for what they thought would bring dangerous protests. Instead, many gathered for mostly peaceful demonstrations in several cities across the U.S. including Memphis, where demonstrators blocked the Interstate 55 bridge that carries traffic over the Mississippi River toward Arkansas.
Back in the nation's capital, protestors gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House and near Black Lives Matter Plaza. Demonstrators also blocked traffic while they chanted and marched through the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, and Portland, Oregon. Philadelphia also held a protest on Friday night at City Hall.
President Joe Biden released a statement following the video’s release on Vimeo Friday night, saying he was “outraged” and “deeply pained” to see the video of Nichols’ beating.
“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,” Biden said.
He added that something has to be done to make sure the criminal justice system is able to operate as is promised, fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all, and called on Congress to act now — pointing to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk,” said Biden. “When Senate Republicans blocked that bill, I signed an executive order that mandated stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level.”
In the video from Memphis, Nichols is seen being repeatedly struck with the officers’ fists, boots and batons as he yelled out for his mother. At one point, when Nichols is able to run away, it shows the officers chasing and then continuing to beat Nichols, leaving him on the pavement up against a cop car as the officers celebrate.
The horrific incident has garnered national attention from various civil rights organizations, elected officials, and even athletes such as LeBron James leading the way.
The Memphis police department already has disbanded the specialized police unit involved in Nichols' death, known as SCORPION, the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, a 40-person team first created in 2021 to help combat rising crime rates.
The Department of Justice and the FBI Memphis Field Office are also investigating whether Nichols' civil rights were violated, while members of Congress have not yet ruled out a federal investigation into the entire city police department.