Why was Tyre Nichols pulled over by Memphis police?
On Friday night (January 27), Memphis officials released video footage of the violent arrest of Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who died three days after he was severely beaten during a traffic stop.
The young man’s death deeply affected the Nichols family and sparked a city-wide scandal.
Five Memphis police officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — involved in the stop were fired and fired now charged with murder.
President Joe Biden and his predecessors Barack Obama and Donald Trump have all condemned the fatal beatings, and the Nichols family are scheduled to attend the State of the Union next week as guests of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Body camera footage of the ordeal was released by the city at 7 p.m. ET on Friday. Video showed officers dragging Nichols from his car and firing a taser gun at him before he fled the scene on foot.
After catching up to him, footage shows them hitting, kicking and punching the black man before dumping him into a police car.
Here’s what we know about traffic control, where it all started:
Why was Nichols stopped?
The Memphis Police Department initially said Nichols was pulled over around 8:30 p.m. local time because “reckless driving.”
“When officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation ensued and the suspect fled the scene on foot,” police said at the time. “The officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. Another confrontation ensued while attempting to take the suspect into custody; However, the suspect was eventually arrested.”
The police leadership later backed down from these allegations.
“I’ll be honest with you about the stop itself. What was said was witness to what was considered reckless driving,” said Police Commissioner Cerelyn Davis said CNN on Friday. “We looked at cameras. We looked at body cams. Even if something happened before this stop, we could not prove it.”
“We looked quite extensively to determine what that probable cause was and we couldn’t prove that,” she added. “It doesn’t mean something didn’t happen, but there’s no proof.”
The Nichols family is also skeptical about the police version of events.
“We don’t know anything other than what we saw in the video,” said Ben Crump, attorney for the Nichols family, said at a press conference on Friday.
“They say he drove recklessly. We have to see it. We certainly cannot take their word for it.”
What we do know is that the police and Nichols engaged in some sort of physical altercation after the stop began, and at one point Nichols fled from the police.
Dispatched by the police Audio received from Fox 13 catches officers saying, “We’ve got a black man on the run,” during other tape obtained from CBS News records another police officer saying, “He’s fighting around this time.”
All in all, according to the MPD, two separate altercations broke out between Nichols and the officers during the stop, the latter taking place just a few blocks from Nichols’ home.
After the stop, Nichols was hospitalized and photographed with severe bruises and cuts. He eventually died on January 10th.
An external autopsy revealed that his body had undergone one.extensive bleeding.”
Attorneys for the Nichols family said he was treated like “a human pinata” by officers.
“He was a human pinata to those cops,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said of video of the incident.
“(It) is appalling. It’s sad. It’s disgusting,” said Mr. Crump, another attorney for the family.
What the footage shows
The footage — captured by the police bodycam as well as video from the police skycam — was released Friday by Memphis officials.
It shows the black man being punched, kicked, beaten with batons and tasered by the group of officers.
In the aftermath – as Nichols was slumped against a police car – officers could be heard joking about their use of force.
The first part of the hour-long video showed officers rolling over the young man and forcing him out of the vehicle onto the ground.
Have one of them say, “B**ch put your hands behind your back before I break them.” An officer then threatens Nichols that “I’m going to knock your ass out.”
Nichols replies, “You guys are really busy right now. I’m just trying to go home.”
The video shows the officers attempting to use their tasers on Nichols, who then runs from the scene.
When the first group of officers heard over the radio that the young man had been caught, another was heard saying, “I hope they kick his butt.”
Officers who caught up with Nichols then wrestled him to the ground and pepper spray was apparently used in Nichols’ face.
“I’m going to f*ck spank you,” one officer is heard yelling, while another says, “Look, I’m gonna hose your ass again.”
Nichols can be heard screaming for his mother on the ground.
Officers can then be heard on bodycam video repeatedly yelling at Nichols, “Give me your f***ing hands.”
Another officer is heard saying, “That damn mother made me pepper spray myself.”
The video then showed Nichols slumping against a car while officers stood around laughing and recounting the arrest and what they had done to arrest him.
“I jumped in and started rocking him,” one officer is heard bragging, while another claims Nichols put his hand on her gun.
“He literally had his hand on my gun. That mother***** was there,” the officer said.
In addition to the officers’ bodycam video, the City of Memphis also released video from a police camera mounted on a light pole directly across from the scene of the incident.
That camera, which showed no sound, showed Nichols being hit nine times in four minutes, according to CNN.
Protests spread across America
After the videos were released, protests erupted in Memphis and across the US demanding justice for Nichols.
In Memphis, a large crowd headed toward I-55 in downtown Memphis on Friday night.
Meanwhile, groups of protesters also rallied in New York’s Times Square, Washington DC and Atlanta, Georgia.
President Joe Biden called the video “horrific” and said it was a “painful reminder” of the fear black and brown Americans regularly face while calling for peaceful demonstrations.
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply distressed to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in the death of Tire Nichols,” the President said in a statement. “It’s another painful reminder of the deep fear and trauma, pain and exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every day.”
And the President added: “We must do everything in our power to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment and dignity for all.”
“Real and lasting change will only come when we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.”
On Sunday, Congressional Black Caucus executive director Vincent Evans announced that Nichols’ parents had accepted an invitation to attend next week’s State of the Union.