Updated Jan 27, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Memphis police chief: Video of Tyre Nichols arrest shows acts that "defy humanity"

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said Friday that video of the arrest of Tyre Nichols shows "unconscionable" behavior from the five former officers who have each been charged with second-degree murder over Nichols' death.

Driving the news: Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died days after a forceful traffic stop. Attorneys for his family have alleged that footage from the stop — set to be released later Friday evening —shows Nichols being subjected to “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” by police officers for three minutes.

  • The federal government opened an investigation earlier in January to determine whether Nichols' civil rights were violated by police during the encounter.

What they're saying: "You're going to see acts that defy humanity. You're going to see a disregard for life," Davis told CNN's "This Morning." "Duty of care that we're all sworn to. And a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement."

  • "And I'm sure that, you know, as I said before, that individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don't, then you're not a human being," the police chief continued.
  • She said, in her assessment, the video is worse than footage from the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police Department officers.
  • The video will be uploaded on YouTube by the department on Friday night.

The department, through an initial review of footage, has not been able to substantiate its earlier claim that Nichols was driving recklessly, the police chief said.

  • Davis went further, saying the cameras did not record any evidence of probable cause for the traffic stop.
  • What sparked the first confrontation between Nichols and the officers "is just unknown," she said.
  • Nichols was pulled over just blocks away from his home by a specialized police unit, called " SCORPION," which was created in 2021 to bring down crime levels in particular areas, Davis said.
  • The department is also reviewing previous arrests and footage from the unit, she said.

Davis said she could not "remove myself from responsibility" over the incident.

  • "The accountability is throughout the police department, all the way up to the chief," she said.
  • Davis said two paramedics are also under investigation by the Memphis fire chief over their actions throughout the incident. Based on her assessment of the footage, they delayed giving care to Nichols.
  • "They just stood by. They did begin to render care and concern, but it was long after several minutes."

Ahead of the video’s release, NAACP President Derrick Johnson in a statement Thursday called on Congressional leaders to watch it and pass police reforms.

  • "By failing to write a piece of legislation, you're writing another obituary. By failing to pass the legislation, you're passing on your sworn duty to protect the people," Johnson said.

Cities around the country have braced for protests after the video is released. Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, asked that protests be peaceful.

  • "I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets because that is not what my son stood for,” Wells said at a vigil, according to local media. “If you guys are here for Tyre and me, then you will protest peacefully.”

The big picture: Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday the five police officers, who are also Black men, were also charged with aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

Go deeper: "They are all responsible": 5 ex-cops involved in Tyre Nichols’ arrest charged with murder, DA says

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional information and context.

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