City of Memphis via AP
- On January 8, Memphis Police released a statement about a “confrontation” with a reckless driver.
- Tyre Nichols died of injuries from a “use-of-force incident” that occurred during the traffic stop.
- New bodycam video shows officers beating Nichols, which is omitted in the police version of events.
On January 8, the Memphis Police Department released a statement describing a “confrontation” with an alleged reckless driver, later identified as Tyre Nichols. But bodycam footage of the incident, released Friday, revealed a different story of the brutal beating that left the 29-year-old dead.
“On January 7, 2023, at approximately 8:30pm, officers in the area of Raines Road and Ross Road attempted to make a traffic stop for reckless driving,” The original Memphis Police Department statement read. “As officers approached the driver of the vehicle, a confrontation occurred, and the suspect fled the scene on foot.”
—Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) January 8, 2023
The statement continued: “Officers pursued the suspect and again attempted to take the suspect into custody. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, another confrontation occurred; however, the suspect was ultimately apprehended. Afterward, the suspect complained of shortness of breath, at which time an ambulance was called to the scene. The suspect was transported to St. Francis Hospital in critical condition.”
Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis said on Thursday that the officers had no proof to pull Nichols over, and has called the video “heinous, reckless, and inhumane.”
“We’ve looked at cameras, we’ve looked at body-worn cameras, and even if something occurred prior to the stop, we’ve been unable to substantiate that at this time,” Davis told CNN. “We have not been able to substantiate the reckless driving.”
Bodycam footage released by the City of Memphis on Friday revealed that the “confrontation” was actually a 5-against-1 takedown of Nichols that his lawyers described as officers beating the man like a “human pinata” while he cried out for his mother. Nichols died three days after the stop.
Less than three weeks after the initial incident, five of the officers involved in the incident were charged with second-degree murder. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have also been placed on leave pending an investigation into their conduct, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Department released Friday.
The Shelby Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. The Memphis Police Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the investigation into the incident, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Prior to the video’s release, the Memphis police chief described the stop as “heinous” and “inhumane.”
The videos, released in four parts showing perspectives from different officers’ bodycams, do not show any reckless driving on Nichols’ part and begin with a tense scene of officers ordering him from the car.
In one video, an officer can be heard ordering Nichols to “get the fuck out of the fucking car.” After Nichols responds that he “didn’t do anything,” the officer pulls him out of the car and throws him to the ground.
“I’m gonna tase your ass,” the officer can be heard saying.
Nichols stands up and struggles with the officer before the officer deploys his Taser and misses Nichols. He then runs away.
Another officer can be heard saying, “I hope they stomp his ass.”
In another bodycam video, Nichols can be seen repeatedly being stomped on and punched by officers as he cries out for his mother. Later in the footage, Nichols’ cries become less coherent, his speech slurs, and he struggles to stand up.
The Memphis Police Department’s original statement makes no mention of the officer conduct that caused Nichols to be transported to the hospital, though a January 10 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation statement said he “succumbed to his injuries.”
—Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) January 10, 2023
Legal experts told Insider the footage reveals a “breakdown” in police protocol and described the incident as “excessive.”
“There’s no reason why five officers need to reduce themselves to closed-fist punching in order to subdue a suspect who does not appear to be violent in return, but at the very worst can be said to not be compliant with their orders,” Joshua Ritter, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor, and partner with El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, told Insider of the footage.
Nationwide, anti-police-brutality protests have gathered steam as people react to the bodycam footage, prompting comparisons to the 2020 video of George Floyd’s death, when officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for several minutes as Floyd cried that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for Floyd’s murder.
Instead of circulating the bodycam footage of Nichols’ death, which experts say can do more harm than good, many activists are spreading videos of him skateboarding to remember him as someone who “lived in joy.”