GRAPHIC: Video shows ‘heinous’ beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis officers, attorney says

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:57 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:10 PM HST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) - The family of Tyre Nichols, the man who died days after a confrontation with Memphis police, spoke Monday for the first time since seeing footage from the event that led to his death.

The family retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci to represent them following Nichols’ death.

Family members and attorneys got the chance to review the footage Monday before it was publicly released. They also met with Memphis police.

Crump said Nichols’ mother was unable to sit through more than a minute of the video. In that first minute, Tyre asked police officers, “What did I do?” Crump said.

Crump called the video “appalling, heinous, violent and troublesome.”

“We’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops,” Crump said. “You should not be killed from a simple traffic stop.”

Crump says Police Chief CJ Davis told them before watching the video that she was not proud of what they were about to see.

“Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video,” Crump said.

Attorney Ben Crump shares their response to watching police video in the Tyre Nichols arrest. (CNN)

Romanucci says Nichols was defenseless during the events of the video. He says Tyre was “a human piñata” as he was being beaten by police.

“Not only was it violent, it was savage,” Romanucci said. He says Nichols was trying to get home to be with his mother, somewhere safe.

He says the officers were in unmarked cars and questioned why they were conducting traffic stops.

Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells says no parent should ever see what they had to watch.

“Family and the attorneys we have will not stop until we get justice,” he said. “And like I said from day one, justice for us is murder one, and anything less than that we will not accept.”

Tyre’s mother says Nichols was just 80 yards from home when he was beaten.

“When I walked into that hospital room, he was already dead,” she said.

Five Memphis Police officers were fired Friday for their involvement in Nichols’ traffic stop earlier this month.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement that investigators don’t want to release the video to the public yet, because they don’t want to risk compromising the investigation. He expects it will be released this week or next week.

For weeks, people across the city have pleaded for the release of the video.

This incident happened Jan. 7. In a report, Memphis police said there was a confrontation as officers approached Nichol’s car in a stop for reckless driving.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx worker, ran and then there was another confrontation before he was detained, police stated.

Officers said Nichols complained about shortness of breath, and they had an ambulance take him to a nearby hospital. He died three days later.

Officials said a cause of death has not been determined.

The department conducted an internal investigation that wrapped up Friday, ultimately ending with five officers being fired. They were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

In a statement, Police Chief CJ Davis said the officers violated multiple department policies including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid. He said last week that video of the arrest would be released after the internal investigation and after the family had seen it, but the exact timing wasn’t immediately clear.

On Monday, Memphis Fire Department also confirmed that two MFD personnel who were involved in taking care of Nichols have been relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice also are investigating this case.

Nichols’ family would like to see the officers involved in the arrest face criminal charges.

“The fight’s just beginning. At this point now, it’s seeking justice. This fight is just beginning. It’s just the beginning stages of this fight,” said Nichols’ parents in a statement.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, said the city has been on edge since the arrest, which he called “horrific and senseless.”

“The release of the tape may certainly aggravate the feelings of hurt, sorrow and embarrassment that we are all feeling,” Parkinson said. “However, the need for transparency is vitally important in all cases of police involved deaths.”

Van Turner, president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, also acknowledged that Memphis appears tense as it waits for the video. But he praised the city and the police department for taking “quick action” in firing the officers.

“We will continue to monitor and support a fair and just resolution to this matter,” Turner said. “We join the call for peaceful protests as we all work towards making sure that proper measures are put in place to prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future.”

Attorneys Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent Nichols’ family, issued a statement Friday saying they support the department’s decision to fire the officers.

“This is the first step towards achieving justice for Tyre and his family. They must also be held accountable for robbing this man of his life and his son of a father,” they said.

The attorneys said they “will continue to demand transparency and accountability” and plan to review video footage to seek additional clarity about the circumstances that led to Nichols’ death. The lawyers planned a news conference for later Monday with the family.

As for the timing of the video’s release to the public, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said the law “places limits on such video release, and that we have to make sure we do so without compromising our ability to arrive at justice in this case.”

“I ask for your patience as we gather all necessary information so that we don’t compromise the investigation or any possible future prosecution,” Mulroy said in a statement.