Law enforcement in Memphis, Tennessee, is bracing itself for the release of police body cam footage of Tyre Nichols, a young black man who, on Jan. 7, was pulled over for a traffic stop and, three days later, was pronounced dead from the injuries he sustained during the incident, according to authorities.
The footage is apparently so explosive, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who called the encounter between police and Nichols, 29, “heinous,” delivered a video statement in which she urged her city to remain peaceful after its release.
“This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity towards another individual,” Davis said.
The five officers, who were also black, and others who were involved in Nichols’ death “failed our community, and they failed the Nichols family,” Davis said. “That is beyond regrettable.”
Those five officers were fired following an internal investigation and could be facing criminal charges, CNN reports.
What began as a suspected reckless driving stop on Jan. 7 at roughly 8:30 p.m. became a “confrontation,” police stated. Nichols fled the scene on foot, officers caught up to him, and “another confrontation occurred.”
The officers’ brutal response has been likened to the infamous “police beating” of Rodney King that sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1991.
Reported by the Associated Press:
Memphis police officers beat motorist Tyre Nichols for three minutes, treating him like “a human piñata” in a “savage” encounter reminiscent of the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King, attorneys for the family said Monday.
Attorney Ben Crump said police video viewed by the family on Monday showed that Nichols was shocked, pepper sprayed and restrained after the 29-year-old FedEx worker and father was pulled over Jan. 7 minutes from his home while returning from a suburban park where he had taken photos of the sunset. Another attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said that Nichols, who was Black, was kicked before Crump stopped him from saying more.
“In the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves,” Davis said. “I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outraged by the disregard for basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”
Crump viewed the body cam footage with the Nichols family and echoes Davis’s sentiments.
“It is appalling,” the civil rights attorney said. “It is deplorable. It is heinous. It is violent.”
Davis is clearly concerned with how Memphis will react when the footage becomes public.
“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results,” she said. “But, we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.”
“None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens,” she added.
The police chief called for “true responsible action and change,” and said the release of the footage and the investigation into Nichols’ death represent the first steps toward regaining the community’s faith in law enforcement.
Tyre Nichols was violently beaten by Memphis Police (TN) after a simple traffic stop — he would die 3 days later. This beloved member of his community was brutalized to the point of being beyond recognition — we MUST put an end to Black men falling victim to police brutality! pic.twitter.com/2MUlpCECTM
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 24, 2023
“In our hurt and our outrage and our frustration, there is still work that needs to be done to build each other up to continue the momentum in improving our police and community relationships and partnerships,” she said.
“To show those who watch us now that this behavior is not what will define our community and this great city,” she continued. “This is not a reflection of the good work that many Memphis police officers do every day. What comes next is our defining moment. What we all do next can be that reflection of our character.”
“I am not wavering in my commitment to you to have a police force that is here to serve and protect you,” she vowed. “I have met with and offered condolences to Tyre’s mother and father and have asked for the support of our community leaders and our clergy in this extremely difficult moment.”
“It is my intent as a proactive measure that a complete and independent review on all of the Memphis Police Department’s specialized units and to ensure policies, and procedures are adhered to in the daily encounters with the citizens we are sworn to serve,” she added.
In addition to firing the five officers involved — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith — “Two personnel from the Memphis Fire Department have also been fired, and an internal investigation has been launched,” according to Fox News.
“Last week, two MFD personnel involved in the initial patient care of Tyre Nichols were relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted,” the Tennessee city’s fire department told the outlet on Tuesday.
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