Memphis authorities on Friday evening released graphic video showing the arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after a traffic stop on Jan. 10.
Federal, state and local authorities had warned that the footage of five former police officers, who are all Black men, was horrific and appalling, bracing the Memphis community and the country for what they would see.
Over the course of the video, officers pepper-spray, deploy a stun gun and beat Nichols.
Nichols can be heard repeatedly screaming for his mother throughout the beating. At least one officer can be heard repeatedly yelling for Nichols to “gimme your hands,” though Nichols already appeared to be on the ground.
Final video footage from a police camera mounted on a pole show Nichols surrounded by the officers, with at least three simultaneously punching and kicking him. Officers who were not physically participating in the beating did not intervene or attempt to stop those who were. At least eight officers were present at the scene.
Video of the arrest was taken from polecam, SkyCop and police body camera footage.
The five police officers were fired from the department last week. On Thursday, they were charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
The officers were part of the SCORPION unit of the Memphis police. Attorneys for Nichols’s family have called for that unit to be disbanded.
SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, is a 50-person unit that polices particular areas of the city — which disproportionately end up in Black and brown communities, the attorneys argued.
“What we’ve seen this month in Memphis and for many years in many places, is that the behavior of these units can morph into ‘wolf pack’ misconduct that takes away a person’s liberty or freedom to move, akin to a kidnapping,” attorneys Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in an open letter.
“These often aggressive encounters flat out destruct trust between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve, but as we saw in the tragic and unnecessary death of Tyre Nichols, can also lead to physical injury or death when the culture of unchecked, pro-active policing overtakes common sense.”
Two unidentified firefighters have not been charged, but Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday it is possible more charges could be forthcoming.
Nichols’s family had already seen the video before its release. His stepfather, Rodney Wells, called the footage “horrific.” His mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she was unable to watch the full video.
Crump, the famed civil rights attorney representing the family, likened the footage to that of Rodney King, a Black man brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers during a traffic stop in 1991.
Ahead of the release, Memphis, Tenn., Police Chief Cerelyn Davis called the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”
Davis on Friday said police decided to release the video on a Friday evening instead of during the workweek so any potential protests would not be as disruptive to people in school or at work.
Officials in cities around the country are now calling for peaceful protests in response to the video.
— Updated at 7:54 p.m.