Disturbing and graphic footage of the now-fatal beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by five Black Memphis police officers was released Friday evening, sparking outrage, condemnation and peaceful protests across the country, as yet another Black man died at the hands of police officers. In response, President Joe Biden said the incident “will leave people justifiably outraged,” joining members of Congress and activists in calling for criminal justice reform.
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said in a statement. He added: “We must do everything in our power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all.” Biden called Tyre Nichols’ parents on Saturday, as they exchanged heartwarming stories about their children.
Nichols was pulled over in Memphis on January 7 and died three days later from “use-of-force incident with officers,” according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation statement. The five police officers—all of whom are Black—were fired after the incident and now face multiple charges, including second-degree murder, assault and kidnapping. The Justice Department said on January 18 that it also launched a civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death.
The video footage from the incident was released on Friday, spanned an hour. It depicts a horrific scene late around 8:30 p.m. in Memphis, showing Nichols being confronted by police officers. They then push him to the ground. “I didn’t do anything,” Nichols can be heard saying.
As officers are yelling at Nichols and trying to pin him to the ground. “OK! I am on the ground,” Nichols said. “You guys are really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to go home.” He then escaped from the officers’ grasp, but two officers followed and backup arrived; Nichols was captured once again at an intersection only 60 yards from his mother’s house. Nichols called out for his mom as the officers kicked and punched him and beat him with a baton. One officer appeared to spray him in the eyes with a harmful spray.
“I’m going to baton the fuck out you,” one officer said, before he and his colleagues savagely continued beating Nichols. Nichols was then propped up against the car, seemingly unable to support himself. According to the AP, even though medical workers arrived at the scene within 10 minutes, it took them nearly 20 minutes before providing aid to Nichols. By 9:02 p.m, the ambulance arrived and put Nichols in a stretcher, and transported him to a hospital almost six miles away from the violent scene. He died three days later. An autopsy report said that he “suffered excessive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
“He had bruises all over him. His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was busting because of the swelling. They broke his neck. My son’s nose look like a S,” RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother said. “They actually just beat the crap out of him. And so when I saw that, I knew my son was gone, the end. Even if he did live, he would have been a vegetable.”