Watch: Memphis police video shows fatal beating of Tyre Nichols

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Protests for Tyre Nichols were held in several cities on Friday, with protesters in New York gathering in Times Square. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) — Memphis Police Friday released body-cam video that showed Tyre Nichols calling for his mother’s help repeatedly as officers beat him after a traffic stop. He died days later.

Video clips of footage from the police encounter that preceded Nichols’ death show officers beating and pepper-spraying him. In one video, at least one officer can be heard claiming Nichols went for an officer’s weapon, though the footage on this is unclear.

Footage from the so-called Skycop security camera that captured the scene from above shows several officers kicking and punching Nichols, and at one point the officers pick Nichols up and continue to strike him. One officer is seen striking him with a baton.

For several minutes, Nichols is seen on the ground and still moving while officers discuss the traffic stop. No one is seen administering aid to Nichols.

In footage from police body cameras, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother, who lived close by. The video also shows officers using pepper spray on Nichols, and at one point in the footage an officer can be heard commenting that he sprayed himself with pepper spray.

The police officers seen originally detaining Nichols were not in police dress uniform and the vehicle they drove was unmarked.

Five former Memphis police officers have been charged in the death of the 29-year-old FedEx employee and father.

Former police officers Tadarrius Bean, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, Demetrius Haley, and Desmond Mills Jr. were charged with multiple counts, including second-degree murder and kidnapping, and taken into custody on Thursday.

On Friday, all five posted bail and were released from county jail.

The five officers were members of an elite police unit known as Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, commonly referred to as “Scorpion.” The unit was founded in 2021 and was touted as a solution to gang-related crime. But the unit also has been accused of singling out specific neighborhoods for law enforcement.

Nicholas’ family commissioned an independent autopsy that concluded that Nichols suffered “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating, and that his observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7, 2023,” according to a statement from Nichols family attorney Benjamin Crump.

On Friday, lawyer and youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., Bernice King, tweeted, “You don’t have to watch the video of #TyreNichols being beaten by police. You don’t have to subject yourself to that trauma. It should not require another video of a Black human being dehumanized for anyone to understand that police brutality is an urgent, devastating issue.”

President Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday condemning the killing and encouraging peaceful protests in place of violence.

“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” the president said. “Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.”

The president also commented on Nichols’ death before he boarded Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House on his way to Camp David, saying he assured the Nichols family that he would continue to strive to get Congress to pass the George Floyd Act.

“We should get this under control,” Biden said. “I can only do so much in an executive order at a federal level.”

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 is a policing reform bill drafted by Democrats that aims to address problems in policing, including police misconduct, racial bias and the use of excessive force. It passed the House mostly along party lines but was defeated by Republicans in the Senate.

Reactions from officials who have seen body-camera video of Nichols’ arrest have expressed outrage.

“I have seen the video myself and I will tell you I was appalled. I’m struggling to find a stronger word, but I will just tell you I was appalled,” FBI director Christopher Wray said during a press conference Friday.

Before the release of the video, Nichols’ family joined others in calling for calm, with Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, urging peaceful protests.

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

Attorney General Merrick Garland echoed Wells’ calls for calm during a press conference Friday.

“Expressions of concern when people see this video, we urge that they be peaceful and nonviolent, that’s what the family has urged and that, of course, is what the Justice Department urges, as well,” Garland said.

Two members of the Memphis fire department are also under investigation for their conduct during the events leading up to Nichol’s death.

Blake Ballin, the attorney representing officer Desmond Mills told ABC News “everybody played their own role. I suspect you’ll see officers crossed the line but not Desmond.”

After the video was released, protesters gathered in Washington, Portland, Ore., and Memphis, where they shut down a bridge on Interstate 55.

Video on social media late Friday showed New York City’s Times Square shut down by protesters gathered in the street, where some police officers struggled with the demonstrators in an effort to make arrests.

Demonstrations were also reported in Nashville and Boston.

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