Police in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday released body camera footage from the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died three days after officers beat and pepper-sprayed him.
The footage (warning: it contains disturbing content) gives a graphic depiction of officers demanding that Nichols get out a car following a questionable traffic stop of 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 to them to “stop” while he’s on the ground surrounded by officers.
“Bitch, put your hands behind your back before I break you,” one officer is heard saying.
Another officer then says he is going to knock Nichols “the fuck out,” threatening more force as the young man is lying on the ground.
“You guys are really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to go home,” Nichols told police.
Officers can then be seen pepper-spraying Nichols and tasing him as he shouts again, “I’m not doing anything.”
Nichols then attempts to flee as officers are using the Taser on him and his shirt is falling off.
Police eventually catch up to Nichols, surround him and beat him while he is the on ground. He is passed around among officers who take turns punching him and pressing his body to the pavement.
The violent incident takes place in a residential neighborhood. The footage shows more cop cars eventually arriving as Nichols lies on the ground.
Nichols, a FedEx worker who was known for his love of skateboarding, was arrested after he was pulled over for alleged reckless driving. Officers have said he fled the scene on foot and was captured. Nichols told officers he was experiencing “shortness of breath,” and was hospitalized with serious injuries. He died on Jan. 10.
Officials have not disclosed a cause of death, but Nichols’ family said he suffered from cardiac arrest and kidney failure. His family alleges the arresting officers beat and pepper-sprayed him and shocked him with a stun gun.
On Monday, Nichols’ family, accompanied by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, viewed the bodycam footage of his arrest.
The traffic stop happened two minutes from Nichols’ home, his mother said, and he was beaten by police within 80 yards of where he lived.
Crump described the videos as “deplorable” and “heinous” during a Monday press conference.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis called the footage and beating of Nichols “incomprehensible” and said the videos are about “the same if not worse” than the images of the 1991 assault of Rodney King by police in Los Angeles.
The Memphis Fire Department confirmed to HuffPost that two employees involved in the “initial patient care” of Nichols were relieved of duty pending an ongoing investigation. The department did not provide further comment.
Desmond Mills Jr., Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley and Emmitt Martin III were identified as the officers involved in Nichols’ deadly arrest.
The officers were a part of the Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION squad, whose name stands for Street Crimes Operation To Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.
The police squad, introduced by Davis in 2021, is tasked with handling violent crimes in the area.
The Memphis Police Department announced Friday that following an internal investigation, all five officers involved in Nichols’ arrest have been fired for violating department policy and practices, including those pertaining to excessive force. All five officers were charged with second-degree murder by a grand jury.
Shelby County records say the officers were additionally 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 bond.
Activists and supporters gathered for a vigil for Nichols on Thursday night in Memphis. An independent autopsy review by Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci indicated that Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by 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 handed over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations.
Last week, the Department of Justice and the FBI announced a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.