Outrage as video shows Tyre Nichols beaten by officers before his death
Memphis Police has released bodycam footage showing the moment Tyre Nichols called for his mother as he was beaten by five officers before he died.
The footage shows police beating the 29-year-old for three minutes while screaming profanities at him throughout the attack.
Police have released four separate videos cut into one hour-long clip.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis told reporters it was from “three different streams”.
She said: “It’s three different sources: body-worn camera, an actual source right there at the scene where the most physical you know abuse occurred and then two other body-worn cameras from the officers at that same scene.”
Ms Davis had earlier asked for calm before the video footage was made public.
“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels,” she said. “I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights.”
Five sacked officers, who are all black, have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes, including assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, over Mr Nichols’ death.
In the footage of the attack, one camera shows the initial police stop at an intersection in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I’m going to baton the (expletive) out you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Mr Nichols.
After the first officer roughly pulls Mr Nichols out of his car, the FedEx worker can be heard saying “I didn’t do anything” as a group of officers begins to wrestle him to the ground.
“Get on the ground!,” one officer yells, as another is heard yelling: “Tase him! Tase him!”
The father-of-one calmly replied soon after being wrestled to the pavement: “OK, I’m on the ground.”
Moments later, as the officers continue to yell, Mr Nichols says: “Man, I am on the ground.”
An officer yells: “Put your hands behind your back before I break your (expletive).”
Moments later, an officer yells: “(Expletive), put your hands behind your back before I break them.”
“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Mr Nichols says loudly to the officers. “I’m just trying to go home.”
“Stop, I’m not doing anything,” he yells moment later.
Nichols heard calling for his mother as police attack him
The camera is briefly obscured and then Mr Nichols can be seen running as an officer fires a Taser at him. The officers then start chasing Mr Nichols.
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After the beating, officers milled about for several minutes while Mr Nichols lay propped up against the car, then slumped onto the street.
In footage from one of the cameras Mr Nichols is heard shouting for his mother while police attack him.
Mr Nichols is then pepper-sprayed and punched in the face.
‘A heinous, reckless and inhumane’ attack
Ms Davis said the officers were “already ramped up, at about a 10” during the initial stop.
She added the officers were “aggressive, loud, using profane language and probably scared Mr Nichols from the very beginning”.
“We know something happened prior to this officer or these officers getting out of their vehicles… just knowing the nature of officers, it takes something to get them amped up, you know, like that. We don’t know what happened,” she said.
“All we know is the amount of force that was applied in this situation was over the top.”
Ms Davis also described the officers’ actions as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” and said that her department has been unable to substantiate the reckless driving allegation that prompted the stop.
Demonstrator says ‘they killed a man that looked like me’
Protests are taking place in at least nine cities across the US in the hours since the bodycam footage was released.
Mr Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, had earlier warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace saying “tearing up the streets” is “not what my son stood for”.
Demonstrations are taking place in Sacramento in California, Washington DC, Atlanta in Georgia, Boston in Massachusetts, New York, Asheville in North Carolina, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Providence in Rhode Island.
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A demonstration organised by Black Lives Matter is taking place in Memphis, Tennessee, where Mr Nichols was attacked.
Sky’s US correspondent James Matthews, who is at the demonstration, asked one protester how she felt when she saw the video.
She replied: “It was heartbreaking, very very difficult to watch. It was just heartbreaking that’s all I can say.”
A man who was attending the protest in Memphis told Sky News: “(The attack was) unprofessional, not police-like, I don’t agree with that.
“That’s why I am down here now. That was disgusting to me.”
A second man said: “I was very sad about the situation and I’m praying for Tyre Nichols’ family. I’m very upset about the video, it was disturbing, they killed a man that looked like me.
“Being a black man in this country is hard, we came here as slaves and feel like there is still slavery, feel like we will never escape it.
“Being a black man is hard, traffic stops, going to the mall, you’re being watched, you’re being filmed.
“Being a black man is hard.”
Meanwhile, police in New York City have made at least three arrests at a protest near Times Square.
One arrest was for damage to a police car, a second was for punching a police officer and a third was for an undisclosed reason, a police captain told NBC News.
Police are also documenting any damage to other vehicles as protesters weave through cars. They also confiscated bikes from protesters who were trying to prevent arrests from being made.
The New York Police Department has issued a statement condemning the “disgraceful actions” by the Memphis officers which are an “unequivocal violation of our oath to protect those we serve, and a failure of basic human decency”.
In light of the protest action expected in the city over the coming days, the force has said there will be an “increased police presence over the next days to ensure that people who choose are able to express themselves freely and safely”.
Given the likelihood of protests, Ms Davis had told ABC that she and other local officials decided it would be best to release the video later in the day, after schools were dismissed and people were home from work.
Biden says he is ‘outraged’ and ‘deeply pained’
New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, said he and other mayors across the country had been briefed by the White House in advance of the video’s release, which he said would “trigger pain and sadness in many of us. It will make us angry”.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was “appalled” by the video and that all FBI field officers have been alerted to work with state and local partners, including in Memphis, “in the event of something getting out of hand”.
Tyre Nichols’ final words move us to ask important questions
Sometimes, there are no words.
Articulating the loss of a son can stretch the vocabulary in the best of times.
The family of Tyre Nichols find themselves in the absolute worst.
What words can convey how it feels to have a son, your son, battered to death on camera?
As hard as anyone tried at a news conference inside Mount Olive Cathedral in Memphis, maybe the job was done best by Tyre himself.
At the end of the video, he is heard to call out for his mother, three times.
They are his final words on footage that shows him becoming limp, unconscious and clearly in distress.
He was surrounded by police and other medical specialists who stood back rather than stepped in.
His final words were a plea to someone he knew would help, his mum, who lived three blocks from where he was beaten.
RowVaughn, Tyre’s mother, wasn’t aware of it until it emerged on the video. She only knows now because she’s been told – she can’t bring herself to watch the images.
“You have no clue how I feel,” she told a news conference when asked about her son calling out for her.
And, of course, we don’t.
But we are asked to consider how we would feel – by the sense of helplessness and lack of humanity aggravated by the desperate cry of a grown man to his mother.
It helps an audience empathise, as well as sympathise, and that’s important amidst the demands for change.
The case of Tyre Nichols moves us to ask important questions around police culture in the United States.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement after the footage was released: “Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. 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.
“My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss.”
He added: “Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”
They five officers who have been charged are named Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III, Tadarrius Bean and Justin Smith.
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.