Officials in Memphis on Friday released police video from the violent arrest of, a 29-year-old Black man whose death earlier this month has led to second-degree against five officers, who were fired over the incident. Nichols died three days after what his family and authorities described as a brutal encounter that stemmed from a traffic stop.
The four videos — posted on the city of Memphis’ Vimeo account shortly before 7 p.m. EST — were taken from police body cameras and street surveillance cameras. They show officers first removing Nichols from a vehicle after pulling him over, an initial struggle when Nichols breaks loose and runs away from the officers, and then disturbing images of Nichols being restrained and beaten by five officers at a suburban intersection.
The unsettling footage will likely generate a wave of national outrage and add to calls for police reform. Mostly peaceful protests were already taking place in cities across the country Friday night.
The videos show different angles of Nichols being pepper sprayed, kicked in the head while being restrained, punched and struck multiple times with a baton.
The first body camera video shows a police officer approaching a car stopped at a red light with his gun drawn while Nichols is being forcibly pulled out and pushed to the ground by another officer. An officer threatens to break his hands if he doesn’t put them down.
As the officers scream and try to restrain him, Nichols remains relatively calm.
“OK, I’m on the ground,” he says. “You guys are doing a lot, I’m just trying to go home.”
The officers continue to push Nichols on the ground, when the officer wearing the body camera pulls out his Taser gun and points it at Nichols’s leg. Soon after, another officer pepper sprays him, and that is when Nichols seems to break loose and run down a street.
A second video, taken from an elevated street surveillance camera, shows officers restraining and beating Nichols at a different location, a suburban intersection.
The video, which has no sound, shows two officers holding Nichols on the ground, when a third officer approaches and kicks Nichols in the face twice. A fourth officer deploys a retractable baton and begins beating Nichols, hitting him in the back. Nichols stands up and stumbles while being held by two officers, when another one punches him in the face several times until the blows make Nichols collapse.
The third video shows bodycam footage and audio of the beating, after officers detain Nichols at the intersection. While he is being restrained on the ground, the officer wearing the camera pepper sprays Nichols repeatedly.
“Mom, mom, mom!” Nichols screams as an officer yells, “give me your hands!”
The officer wearing the bodycam steps away from Nichols, breathing heavily, seemingly affected by the pepper spray. He then approaches the officers restraining Nichols and deploys the retractable baton.
“Watch out,” he warns the officers. “I’m going to baton the f*** out of you,” he yells at Nichols, hitting him three times, punctuating each blow with, “Give us your hands!” The crack of the baton is audible in the video.
The fourth video shows bodycam footage of an officer chasing and knocking Nichols to the ground at the intersection. At the one minute and 37-second mark, the video is almost entirely obscured — the camera seems to be blocked by something. But there is still audio, and Nichols can be heard screaming “Mom!” in the background.
The police keep shouting, “Give me your f****** hands, lay back, put your head back. Lay flat.” Nichols gags and retches, apparently struggling trying to catch a breath, and one of the officers says, “breathe, man.”
The view is obstructed for about four minutes, and at some point, there is the sound of handcuffs clicking.
“Get him up!” one of the officers says. Officers can be seen gathering at the intersection, with police lights and Nichols sitting on the street with his back against a gray car, his hands behind him. An officer shines a flashlight on his face a couple of times, and Nichols seems to be bleeding from the side of his head.
Nichols sits in the dark against the car, barely moving. At some point paramedics are seen walking up to him, propping him up as he slumps to the side. The footage shows at least a dozen officers gathered at the intersection, and some are recounting how they chased and restrained Nichols.
“S***, my knee,” the officer wearing the bodycam complains. Another officer complains about his leg, and seems to be limping. “That m*****f***** was strong,” a police officer says in the video.
“When I see that boy running bro, that m*****f***** ain’t sorry no more,” one of the officers says. Then another officer says, “Your camera is on.”
Another officer claims Nichols reached and grabbed his gun. As paramedics examine Nichols, who is seen bloodied and struggling in pain, moving from side to side, someone tells him, “You can’t go nowhere, you can’t go nowhere.”
Following the release of the video, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. announced Friday night that two deputies have been “relieved of duty” in connection to Nichols’ arrest.
In a statement posted to social media, Bonner said that the two deputies “appeared on the scene” following Nichols’ arrest by Memphis police.
Bonner said that an “internal investigation” has been launched to determine if the deputies violated any policies. No further details were provided.
A sheriff’s department spokesperson refused to identify the deputies when reached by CBS News.
CBS News has learned that investigators are still searching for more potential video evidence from surveillance cameras in an effort to determine – with more certainty – what sparked the confrontation.
Authorities, members of Nichols’ family and their attorneys were shown the video before Friday’s release.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told “CBS Mornings” on Tuesday that she could not bear to watch it in full. “All I heard my son say was, ‘What did I do?’ I just lost it from there,” she said.
“I’ve never seen the video, but what I’ve heard is very horrific, very horrific, and any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it,” Wells said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told NBC News on Friday the video was “horrific, alarming, disappointing, sad.”
“There were times when he was laying, there were times when he was sat up, there were times when he was mumbling and saying words, but it was obvious he was not in control of his physical self,” Davis added.
Family attorney Ben Crumpthey commissioned found Nichols suffered injuries from a severe beating.
The five officers— Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, official misconduct and other offenses. Lawyers for Martin and Mills said their clients will plead not guilty.
Police had said Nichols fled the officers after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving — an allegation that Davis told CNN earlier on Friday investigators haven’t been able to substantiate.
President Biden spoke with the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols on Friday afternoon, the White House said. During the call with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Mr. Biden offered condolences from him and the first lady, and “commended the family’s courage and strength,” the White House said.
“She’s obviously in enormous pain,” Mr. Biden said of Nichols’ mother. “…I told her I had some idea of what that loss was like, and that although it’s impossible to believe now, but a time will come when his memory brings a smile before a tear.”
In a statement following the video’s release, Mr. Biden acknowledged that he had seen the “horrific” footage, and said that it left him “outraged and deeply pained,” adding that the public should be “justifiably outraged.”
“Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction,” Mr. Biden’s statement read. “Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest.”
Ahead of Friday’s release, police officials in Memphis and other cities around the country prepared for the possibility of protests.
“When people actually see with their own eyes the kinds of things that occurred in this incident, there’s an even greater potential for very serious public reaction,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroyco-host Gayle King on Friday morning.