US braced for release of ‘sickening’ footage of officers ‘beating up driver’ who later died

US

Five former police officers have been charged with murder over the death of a black driver who was allegedly beaten up after a traffic stop.

Tyre Nichols, 29, died in hospital three days after the confrontation in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, on 7 January.

Bodycam footage of the altercation is expected to be released on Friday evening.

A lawyer for the Nichols’ family who has seen the footage said he was used as “a human pinata”.

Joe Biden, the president, called for any protests to be peaceful after the charges on Thursday.

Nichols, a father of one, was arrested after he was stopped for reckless driving, police said, before he was allegedly beaten by the officers for three minutes.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

The mother of Tyre Nichols asks ‘What happened to the humanity?’

The five black officers involved in the arrest were sacked after a police investigation found they used excessive force or failed to intervene and help him.

They are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr and Justin Smith, who are between 24 and 32.

Cerelyn Davis, the Memphis police chief, has asked for calm when the video footage is made public.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels,” she said. “I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights.”

A photo of Tyre Nichols at his memorial service in Memphis. Pic: AP
Image:
A photo of Tyre Nichols at his memorial service in Memphis. Pic: AP

David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said he was sickened by what he saw in the police body-worn camera videos.

“What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing,” he said. “This was wrong. This was criminal.”

Steve Mulroy, the district attorney, said the five officers have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping and official misconduct at a news conference on Thursday.

He said that after Mr Nichols was stopped in his car, there was “an altercation” and officers used pepper spray on him.

Mr Nichols fled on foot.

“There was another altercation at a nearby location at which the serious injuries were experienced by Mr Nichols,” Mr Mulroy said.

The Memphis police department said in an initial statement that an ambulance was called because Mr Nichols “complained of having a shortness of breath” and that he was taken to hospital in critical condition.

Mr Mulroy said he would not comment on the legality of the initial traffic stop.

He said the investigation would continue and he would not rule out additional charges.

Second-degree murder will go a considerable distance in meeting public expectations

America has been here before.

A black man dead at the hands of police officers, with the brutality captured on camera.

Rodney King and George Floyd are just two names that define a deadly dysfunction in the institution that exists to protect and serve.

Now add Tyre Nichols – 29 years old, a father and family man who worked at FedEx and enjoyed skateboarding. “Nobody’s perfect,” said his mother RowVaugn, “But he was damn near”.

We are told the events leading up to his death are contained in a video lasting an hour, multiple angles of what has been trailed as a savage assault. A lawyer for the Nichols family spoke of him being beaten “like a human pinata”.

The Friday night release of the footage is shrouded by a sense of dread, given its potential to ignite violent street protest of the sort seen in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

In Memphis, they are aware of the danger.

It explains why the build-up to the release of the footage has been choreographed around charges for the police officers involved.

In a place where the public demands accountability, laying charges of second-degree murder will go a considerable distance towards meeting expectations.

Charges of murder in the second degree accuse the officers of knowingly killing Mr Nichols.

Does it make a difference that the five men in uniform were black? Perhaps. Time will tell if, and how, that plays into the wider public response.

President Biden framed it thus: “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.

“We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted black and brown people.”

It is a matter of power and its abuse. The latest episode will soon be laid bare – and Memphis is braced.

President Biden said: “Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable.

“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 Nichols family watched the police footage on Monday with their lawyer, Ben Crump, who compared the beating to the 1991 assault by police on Rodney King in Los Angeles that was captured on video and prompted mass protests and police reforms.

Read more:

Woman in car dragged for eight miles underneath truck

Teacher shot by six-year-old student texted loved ones to say school was failing to act

“He was defenceless the entire time. He was a human pinata for those police officers,” Antonio Romanucci, Mr Crump’s co-counsel, told reporters.

Mr Crump said Nichols’ last words heard on the video were of him calling for his mother three times.

Each of the five sacked officers had served in the department for between two and a half and five years, and were dismissed from the force last Saturday.

The officers could not be reached for comment.

Blake Ballin, a lawyer representing Mills, said at a news conference that the former officer was “devastated to find himself charged with a crime”.

Ballin was joined by William Massey, representing Martin. Both former officers intended to plead not guilty, their lawyers said.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Emma Watson Turned 34, And The Harry Potter Alum Celebrated With Candid And Graceful Portraits
Disney cracks down on rules misused to skip queues
Nest New York Unveils the Ultimate Spring Home Fragrance + More Beauty News
Lord Cameron urges Israel to ‘think with head as well as heart’ and not retaliate to Iran
Are we heading for World War Three? Experts give their verdicts