Africa-Press – Kenya. Footage of a traffic stop that has seen five ex-Memphis police officers charged with murder shows them kicking and punching a motorist as he cries out for his mother.
Officers are seen beating Tyre Nichols, 29, for several minutes in the videos from the arrest on 7 January. US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply pained” by the “horrific” clip.
Lawyers for Mr Nichols’ family likened the assault to the 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. This article contains descriptions of violence that some people may find distressing
Police initially said Mr Nichols had been stopped on suspicion of reckless driving, which has not been substantiated. He died in hospital three days later, on 10 January.
Mr Nichols was black, as are all five officers charged in the case. Memphis Police Department released four graphic videos of the traffic stop and its violent aftermath on Friday, totalling more than an hour of footage.
The first clip shows officers pulling Mr Nichols out of his vehicle and shouting at him to get on the ground. “I didn’t do anything!” he says. Officers demand that he lie down flat.
“Get on the [expletive] ground!” one officer shouts, as another is heard saying: “Tase him!” An officer shouts: “Put your hands behind your back before I break your [expletive].”
“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Mr Nichols says to the officers. “I’m just trying to go home.” Within seconds one of the officers fires a Taser at Mr Nichols, who leaps up and manages to run away.
A separate video, from a CCTV camera mounted on a utility pole, shows officers beating Mr Nichols after catching up with him in a residential area. Two officers are seen holding Mr Nichols down while others take turns kicking and punching him and striking him with an expandable baton.
They drag him across the ground and prop him sitting up against a squad car. More than 20 minutes elapse until an ambulance is seen arriving. The third and fourth videos show police body camera footage of the beating, with Mr Nichols being held down, pepper-sprayed and assaulted as he repeatedly shouts: “Mom!”
The videos also show officers milling about recounting details of the incident as Mr Nichols lies slumped against the car. Some of them claim Mr Nichols “swung” at them or reached for their guns, though neither allegation is clear from the released video.
Officers can also be heard saying that nothing was found in his car. Mr Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, has said her son was only about 230ft (70m) from home when Memphis police officers “murdered him”.
Representatives of the family have described Mr Nichols as the father of a four-year-old son and a keen skateboarder who had recently enrolled in a photography class. He worked for the FedEx parcel delivery firm.
One of the lawyers, Antonio Romanucci, said: “This young man, by definition of the law in this state, was terrorised.” The five officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith – were fired last week.
They were taken into custody on Thursday and each faces charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Four of the five posted bail and were released from custody by Friday morning, according to jail records. Lawyers for Mr Martin and Mr Mills have said their clients will plead not guilty.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis described the five officers’ actions as “heinous, reckless and inhumane”. With protests anticipated, she told US media that local officials had decided to release the video on Friday evening so that schoolchildren and commuters would have time to get home.
Dozens of protesters shut down a road bridge in the Memphis area on Friday night, while small-scale demonstrations were held in other US cities, including New York and Washington DC.
One protester at the Memphis rally, 21-year-old Kyrion, told the BBC he had dreamed as a child of joining the city’s police force, but now that dream was shattered.”It’s just wicked, the system is forever going to be wicked,” he said. “Which is why I’m out here today, as of right now I can’t count on [police] to protect me.
“How do I know the man is not going to put his knee into my neck, or hold me down and beat me into a pulp?”
After the videos were released, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said two of its deputies had also been relieved from duty pending an investigation into their conduct.
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