State Watch

Tyre Nichols arrest footage: What we know so far

The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, by the City of Memphis, shows police officers talking after a brutal attack on Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. (City of Memphis via AP)

Peaceful protests took place in cities across the U.S. Friday evening after authorities released footage of the early January traffic stop in Memphis in which officers savagely beat 29-year-old Black man Tyre Nichols. He died three days later due to injuries caused by the attack. 

The footage was released in four separate videos — one from a traffic camera and three from officers’ body cameras. The violence they show has prompted outrage and calls for justice from protesters and politicians alike.

Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, urged supporters to protest peacefully in a press conference early Friday, hours before the release of the footage. After it was made public, protesters in Memphis marched down an interstate south of the city’s downtown area, blocking traffic and maintaining nonviolent demonstrations.

Here’s what we learned in the days leading up to the footage’s release, and from the footage itself.

Five officers have been charged in Nichols’s death

Five Memphis police officers have been charged with murder and other crimes in Nichols’s death. The officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired for misconduct last week, and indicted by a grand jury Thursday and taken into custody.

The officers, all of whom are Black, have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression. Four of the five have posted bond as of Friday.

Nichols was pulled over for alleged reckless driving on Jan. 7, and he died three days later from the wounds he sustained during what the police department initially called a “confrontation.” It was later revealed that Nichols was beaten for three minutes by the officers.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said an administrative investigation by the department concluded the officers violated its policies by using excessive force and failing their duties to intervene and render aid. All five officers were hired between March 2017 and August 2020, according to the department.

The footage shows the violence Nichols faced 

The video is filled with violent moments, showing the officers chasing and pummeling Nichols and leaving him on the pavement propped against a squad car as they fist-bumped and celebrated their actions.

The chilling images of another Black man dying at the hands of police renewed tough questions about how such fatal encounters with law enforcement continue even after repeated calls for change.

The recording shows police savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes while screaming profanities at him throughout the attack.

After the first officer roughly pulls Nichols out of a car, Nichols can be heard saying, “I didn’t do anything,” as a group of officers begins to wrestle him to the ground.

One officer is heard yelling, “Tase him! Tase him!”

Nichols calmly says, “OK, I’m on the ground.”

“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Nichols says. “I’m just trying to go home.”

“Stop, I’m not doing anything,” he yells moments later. He can then be seen running as an officer fires a taser at him, after which officers start chasing him. 

Following a search and other officers being called, officers catch Nichols at another intersection and beat him with a baton and kick and punch him. Security camera footage shows three officers surrounding Nichols as he lies in the street cornered between police cars, with a fourth officer nearby.

Two officers hold Nichols to the ground as he moves about, and then the third appears to kick him in the head. Nichols slumps more fully onto the pavement with all three officers surrounding him. The same officer kicks him again.

The fourth officer then walks over, unfurls a baton and holds it up at shoulder level as two officers hold Nichols upright, as if he were sitting.

“I’m going to baton the f— out you,” one officer can be heard saying. His body camera shows him raise his baton while at least one other officer holds Nichols. The officer strikes Nichols on the back with the baton three times in a row.

Biden, lawmakers outraged by footage, call for calm

President Biden said he was “outraged” by the videos released Friday night, and he called for those upset by the footage to protest peacefully.

“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death,” Biden said in a statement released shortly after the video was made public. “It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day.”

Biden earlier Friday spoke with Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols’s stepfather, to express his condolences and offer admiration for their courage.

Several lawmakers also condemned the “brutal and violent killing” of Nichols, after Memphis authorities released the graphic footage on Friday night. Tennessee lawmakers, as well as a number of members of Congress, issued calls for justice and accountability in Nichols’s death.

Tyre Nichols’ family reacts after viewing the footage

Nichols’s mother and stepfather were joined by several dozen supporters for a candlelight vigil and prayer service at a Memphis skate park. At the event, RowVaughn Wells thanked those who attended, then added that her family is “grief-stricken,” The Associated Press reported.

She warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video set to be released Friday, but she pleaded with them to “protest in peace.”

“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully. You can get your point across but we don’t need to tear up our cities, people, because we do have to live in them.”

Nichols’s brother told a local news station on Friday that he hopes the five Memphis officers allegedly involved in his brother’s death face a similar fate.

“You want my truth? … I hope they die,” Jamal Dupree told Fox 40 in Sacramento, Calif.

Some unanswered questions remain

The footage released on Friday has been gathered from police body camera footage, pole-cam and SkyCop cameras. 

However, one element that’s not included in the released videos is footage from the initial police stop.

Tennessee authorities have also not released an autopsy report for Nichols yet.

The footage released Friday shows it took more than 20 minutes after Nichols was beaten and on the pavement before any sort of medical attention was provided to him, even though two fire department officers arrived on the scene with medical equipment within 10 minutes, The Associated Press reported.

Nichols was brought to the hospital in critical condition following the beating, according to police. He died days later. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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