Former President Donald Trump joined the chorus of those responding to graphic footage from the bodycams of five Memphis police officers who repeatedly beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. The footage was released to the public Friday, Jan. 27.
“I thought it was terrible. He was in such trouble. He was just being pummeled. Now that should never have happened,” Trump said during an interview with The Associated Press Saturday.
The footage shows the officers punching, kicking, pepper spraying and tasing Nichols, a 29-year-old Black father and delivery driver, following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
He died three days later, on Jan. 10. The officers were charged with his murder.
Trump, who is running for the White House in 2024, said hearing Nichols repeatedly call out to his mother during the assault was particularly difficult. He said it was “a very sad moment.”
“That was really the point that got me the most, to be honest with you,” the former president said.
Trump said Memphis police were taking a “strong step” in disbanding the SCORPION police unit involved in the attack, which was created to target violent offenders in areas beset by high crime. SCORPION stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.
It has been “permanently” deactivated as a result of the Jan. 7 incident, Memphis officials announced.
Trump also called the video “pretty conclusive,” as the officers face murder charges.
He also suggested the traffic violation was not the officers’ motivation for the beating.
“Look, the tape was perhaps not totally conclusive but, to me, it was pretty conclusive and it was vicious and violent and hard to believe — over a traffic violation,” Trump said.
Warning: The contents of the below video are graphic in nature.
Trump previously discouraged violent protests that erupted across the country in the summer of 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which he also condemned.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump tweeted, sparking backlash. The tweet was also flagged by Twitter as glorifying violence.
The former president defended his comments as attempting to discourage escalation, not a call to shoot those who are looting.
He later centered his 2020 reelection bid around “law and order” and supporting law enforcement.
Trump, while in office, signed an executive order encouraging better police practices.
Former President Barack Obama also responded to the Tyre Nichols bodycam footage.
In a joint tweet, Barack and Michelle Obama said that Nichols’ death is a “painful reminder” for America.
“The vicious, unjustified beating of Tyre Nichols and his ultimate death at the hands of five Memphis police officers is just the latest, painful reminder of how far America still has to go in fixing how we police our streets,” the couple said.
President Joe Biden also addressed the video.
“My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. There are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a beloved child and young father,” he wrote in a statement Friday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.