CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Memphis releases video showing police stop that led to Tyre Nichols’ death

Jan 27, 2023, 6:30 PM

Video footage of a traffic stop that led to the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols shows "acts that def...

Video footage of a traffic stop that led to the deadly beating of Tyre Nichols shows "acts that defy humanity," the Memphis chief told CNN's Don Lemon on January 27. District Attorney Steve Mulroy is pictured at a news conference in Memphis on January 26. Photo credit: Ariel Cobbert for CNN.

Editor’s note: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence.

(CNN) — The city of Memphis has released police body camera and surveillance video showing the January 7 traffic stop and violent police confrontation that led to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

During the initial encounter between Nichols and Memphis police, an officer can be seen driving to the scene of a traffic stop, video shows. The officer gets out of the car with his gun drawn.

As the officer approaches the scene, an officer is yelling at Nichols to “Get the f*** out of the car.”

Officers pull Nichols out of the vehicle and you can hear someone saying, “Get the f*** on the ground and turn his a** around.” Nichols responds by saying, “I didn’t do anything,” and, “Alright, I’m on the ground.”

Officers yell at him to lie down and threaten to tase him.

One officer tells him, “B**** put your (hands) behind your back before I break them.”

Nichols can be heard telling them, “You guys are doing a lot right now. I am on the ground.”

A struggle ensues. Nichols gets up and runs, and the officers begin to chase him.

The officer can be heard reporting on his radio a suspect is on the run and gives a description of what Nichols was wearing.

The officer returns to the scene, where other officers are coughing, and one says he can’t see anything. An officer finds a bottle of water and they begin pouring it into their eyes.

[Original story, published at 7:20 p.m. ET]

The city of Memphis has released police body camera and surveillance video showing the January 7 traffic stop and violent police confrontation that led to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

CNN is reviewing the video.

The video clips released by the city include three police body cams and an overhead angle from a pole-based police camera, city officials have said.

Five Memphis officers were fired this month and then charged Thursday over Nichols’ death, which happened days after the traffic stop police initially said was on suspicion of reckless driving. Nichols was Black, as are the five officers.

Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were part of Nichols’ initial care have been relieved of duty, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Live updates: Memphis to release Tyre Nichols arrest videos

Earlier Friday, Memphis’ police chief said the video would show “acts that defy humanity,”

“You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we’re all sworn to and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement,” Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told Don Lemon of the video.

Ahead of the video release, officials were urging any demonstrations Friday to be civil.

“Individuals watching will feel what the family felt,” Davis said. “And if you don’t, then you’re not a human being. … There will be a measure of sadness, as well.”

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told CNN on Friday, “It’s still like a nightmare right now.”

“I’m still trying to understand all of this and trying to wrap my head around all of this,” Wells said. “I don’t have my baby. I’ll never have my baby again.”

In describing what she heard in the video, Davis said she heard Nichols “call out for his mother, for his mom.”

“Just the disregard for humanity … That’s what really pulls at your heartstrings and makes you wonder: Why was a sense of care and concern for this individual just absent from the situation by all who went to the scene?”

Police nationwide have been under scrutiny for how they treat Black people, particularly since the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and the mass protest movement known as Black Lives Matter. Davis likened the video to the 1991 Los Angeles police beating that sparked outrage across the country.

“I was in law enforcement during the Rodney King incident, and it’s very much aligned with that same type of behavior,” she said.

In Nichols’ case, the encounter began with a traffic stop police initially said was on suspicion of reckless driving. An initial altercation happened between Nichols and several officers, and pepper spray was used, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday.

Nichols then fled on foot, and a second altercation happened — and that’s when Nichols suffered his serious injuries, Mulroy said. Nichols required hospitalization after the arrest and died on January 10.

Davis said police have not been able to find anything that substantiated the probable cause for reckless driving by Nichols before his fatal encounter with police.

‘They had beat him to a pulp’

Police officials in a number of major cities nationwide have said they are monitoring for any possible public outcry this weekend over the video footage.

Before the videos’ release, Nichols’ mother asked for supporters to be peaceful during demonstrations, saying at a vigil in Memphis on Thursday she wants “each and every one of you to protest in peace.”

“I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” Wells said. “And if you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”

Memphis police officers arrived at Wells’ home between 8 and 9 p.m. on January 7 to tell her Nichols had been arrested, she told CNN.

Officers told her that her son was arrested for a DUI, pepper sprayed and tased, she said. Because of that, he was going to the hospital and would later be taken to booking at the police station, she said.

“They then asked me (if) was he on any type of drugs or anything of that nature because they were saying it was so difficult to put the handcuffs on him and he had this amount of energy, superhuman energy,” Wells said. “What they were describing was not my son, so I was very confused.”

Wells said officers told her Nichols was “nearby” but would not tell her exactly where. They also told her she could not go to the hospital, she said.

However, at about 4 a.m., she said, she received a call from a doctor asking her to see Nichols.

“The doctor proceeded to tell me that my son had went into cardiac arrest and that his kidneys were failing,” she said, adding it didn’t “sound consistent” with what police had described as Nichols being tased and pepper-sprayed.

“When my husband and I got to the hospital and I saw my son, he was already gone,” Wells said. “They had beat him to a pulp.”

Wells described the horrific injuries her son had when she saw him in the hospital.

Read stepfather’s description of video: ‘No one rendered aid to him’

“He had bruises all over him. His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was busting because of the swelling. They broke his neck. My son’s nose look like a S,” she said. “They actually just beat the crap out of him. And so when I saw that, I knew my son was gone, the end. Even if he did live, he would have been a vegetable.”

A Memphis church is scheduled to hold Nichols’ funeral Wednesday.

Five fired officers scheduled for February arraignment

The five Memphis police officers identified — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. — were fired January 20 for violating police policies including on use of excessive force, police said.

They were then charged this week. Each has been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression, Mulroy, the Shelby County district attorney, said.

Martin and Haley were released from jail on a $350,000 bond, according to Shelby County Jail records, while Smith, Bean and Mills Jr. have been released after each posting a $250,000 bond.

The five former officers are scheduled for arraignment on February 17.

Two fire department employees who were part of Nichols’ “initial patient care” were relieved of duty “while an internal investigation is being conducted,” department Public Information Officer Qwanesha Ward told CNN’s Nadia Romero.

The US Department of Justice has said it is conducting a federal civil rights investigation of Nichols’ death.

Crump, in a news conference Friday in Memphis, called Memphis’ rapid criminal charges — compared to other cities and states that have waited months or years in similar cases — a “blueprint” moving forward.

“We have a precedent that has been set here in Memphis, and we intend to hold this blueprint for all America from this day forward,” Crump said.

He called for Tennessee to enact what he called “Tyre’s Law”: A proposed measure which would require police officers to intervene when they see crimes being committed, including by fellow officers.

Blake Ballin, an attorney for Mills Jr., one of the officers, said he doesn’t believe his client “is capable of” the accusations, and his client is “remorseful” to be “connected to the death” of Nichols.

Ballin told CNN he has not yet seen the video, but has spoken to people who have. He urged those who watch the video to “treat each of these officers as individuals.”

“The levels of culpability amongst these five officers are different, and I expect that you’re going to see in this video that my client Desmond Mills is not, in fact, guilty of the crimes he’s been charged with,” Ballin said.

Memphis, other cities prepare for protests

Police departments in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Milwaukee, Seattle, Denver, Dallas, New York and Atlanta told CNN they are either monitoring the events in Memphis closely or already have plans in place in case of large-scale protests or unrest.

Memphis will continue to work with community leaders and organizers ahead of the video release, in hopes of quelling any potentially dangerous protests, City Council Vice Chair JB Smiley Jr. said.

“You will see protests, but it will be peaceful because the Memphis Police Department, the sheriff’s department, the district attorney and the Memphis City Council, along with the city administration, has took all the necessary steps to quell any potential of rioting in our city,” Smiley said.

President Joe Biden is echoing Nichols’ family’s call for peaceful protests, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on “CNN This Morning.”

“We certainly don’t want to see anyone else hurt by this terrible, terrible tragedy, and we’ll stay in close touch with the local and state authorities,” Kirby said.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Friday it is coordinating with partners across the United States ahead of the expected release of the video.

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Memphis releases video showing police stop that led to Tyre Nichols’ death