Death of Tire Nichols: Memphis police release footage from body cameras

Police in Memphis, Tennessee, the Friday released body camera footage of the Jan. 7 arrest of Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who died three days after officers beat him and sprayed him with pepper spray.

The footage (warning: it contains disturbing content) graphically depicts officers demanding Nichols out of a car following a questionable traffic stop by the unarmed man.

Nichols is heard shouting “I didn’t do anything” as officers approach him with guns pointed at him.

Officers can be heard shouting multiple obscenities at Nichols during the arrest.

An officer threatens to use a Taser on Nichols, who replies “stop” as he lies on the ground surrounded by officers.

“Bitch, put your hands behind your back before I break you,” an officer was heard saying.

Another officer then says he’s going to knock out Nichols “the whore”, threatening more force as the young man lies on the ground.

“You’re really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to get home,” Nichols told police.

Officers can then be seen pepper spraying Nichols and tasing him as he again shouts, “I’m not doing anything.”

Nichols, a FedEx employee known for his love of skateboarding, was arrested after being arrested for alleged reckless driving. Officers said he fled the scene on foot and was captured. Nichols told officers he was suffering from “shortness of breath” and was hospitalized with serious injuries. He died on January 10.

Authorities have not released the cause of death, but Nichols’ family said he suffered cardiac arrest and kidney failure. His family alleges that the officers who arrested him beat and pepper sprayed him and shocked him with a stun gun.

On Monday, Nichols’ family, along with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, viewed body camera footage of his arrest.

The traffic stop happened two minutes from Nichols’ home, his mother said, and he was beaten by police less than 80 yards from his home.

Crump called the videos “deplorable” and “abhorrent” during a press conference on Monday.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis called the footage and the beating of Nichols “incomprehensible” and said the videos were about “the same if not worse” than the footage of the 1991 assault on Rodney King by police in Los Angeles.

The Memphis Fire Department confirmed to HuffPost that two employees involved in Nichols’ “initial patient care” have been relieved of their duties pending an ongoing investigation. The ministry did not provide further comment.

Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Emmitt Martin III have been identified as the officers involved in Nichols’ fatal arrest.

The officers were part of the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION Squad, whose name stands for Street Crimes Operation To Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.

The police team, introduced by Davis in 2021, is tasked with handling violent crime in the area.

The Memphis Police Department announced Friday that following an internal investigation, the five officers involved in Nichols’ arrest were fired for violating department policy and practices, including those relating to the excessive force. The five officers were charged with second degree murder by a grand jury.

Shelby County records show the officers were also charged with two counts of official misconduct, one count of official oppression, one count of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated kidnapping.

The officers were all released on bail.

Activists and supporters gathered for a vigil for Nichols Thursday night in Memphis. An independent review of the autopsy by Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci indicated that Nichols “suffered profuse bleeding from a severe beating.”

On Friday, Crump and Romanucci demanded that the Memphis Police Department dismantle the SCORPION unit.

A photograph of Nichols in a hospital bed showed him with a swollen eye and other parts of his face disfigured. His family said his face was “unrecognizable”. Activists displayed the photo during protests in Memphis, urging officials to release footage of the Jan. 7 arrest.

The case was assigned to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.

Last week, the Justice Department and the FBI announced a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.


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