Memphis officials have released disturbing police footage of the arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died in hospital three days after being violently detained during a traffic stop earlier this month.
Family members, city leaders, and activists harshly criticised the conduct of the officers shown in the footage, five of whom have been fired and charged with murder.
The first part of the hour-long video showed the officers pulling over the young man, forcing him out of the vehicle and onto the floor.
One of them is heard to say: “B**ch put your hands behind your back before I break them.” An officer then threatens Nichols that “I’m going to knock your ass the f**k out.”
Nichols responds: “You guys are really doing a lot right now. I’m just trying to go home.”
The video shows the officers trying to use their Tasers on Nichols, who then runs from the scene.
When the first group of officers hears over their radios that the young man has been caught, another is heard to say: “I hope they stomp his ass.”
Officers who caught up with Nichols then wrestled him to the ground and pepper spray was seemingly deployed in Nichols’s face.
“I am going to baton the f**k out of you,” one officer can be heard shouting, while another says “Watch out, I’ll spray your a** again.”
Nichols on the ground can be heard crying out loudly for his mother.
The officers then can be heard on bodycam video repeatedly shouting at Nichols, “Give me your f***ing hands.”
Another officer can be heard saying, “That mother f**** made me spray myself” with pepper spray.
The video then showed Nichols slumped against a car while the officers stood around laughing, recounting the arrest and what they had done to capture him.
“I jumped in, started rocking him,” one officer can be heard bragging as another claimed that Nichols put his hand on their gun.
“He literally had his hand on my gun. That mother*****r was on there,” the officer stated.
In addition to the bodycam video from the officers, the city of Memphis also released video from a police camera attached to a light pole directly opposite the scene of the incident.
That camera, which featured no sound, showed Nichols was hit nine times in four minutes, according to CNN.
Following the release of the videos, protesters shut down parts of Interstate 55 in Memphis.
The protests began shortly after the video was released at 7pm ET, with a large crowd taking to I-55 in downtown Memphis headed towards the Mississippi River bridge, according to ABC24.
Protesters then also headed towards the city’s police station, according to NBC News.
Meanwhile, groups of protesters also gathered in New York’s Times Square, Washington DC and Atlanta, Georgia.
President Joe Biden called the video “horrific” and said it was a “painful reminder” of the fear Black and Brown Americans face regularly, while calling for peaceful demonstrations.
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death,” the president said in a statement. “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.”
And the president 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 continued. “Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.”
RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Mr Nichols, said earlier on Friday: “I want to say to the five police officers that murdered my son, you also disgraced your own families when you did this.”
She added: “I’m going to pray for you and your families because at the end of the day, this shouldn’t have happened. This just shouldn’t have happened. We want justice for my son.”
Rodney Wells, Tyre Nichols’s stepfather, said the group of officers as well as the medics who later arrived involved showed a callous disregard for the man who had just been severely beaten.
“No one rendered aid to him whatsoever. They walked around, smoking cigarettes like it was all calm and like, you know, bragging about what happened,” Mr Wells told CNN. “He was sitting there, and then he slumped over. And an officer walked over to him and said, ‘Sit back up motherf******,’ while he’s handcuffed.”
City and state officials have strongly condemned the officers’ conduct.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is helping investigate the incident, said he was “sickened” by the conduct he saw in the video of the police stop, which did “not at all reflect proper policing.”
“We are here to pursue truth and justice, realising we should not be here,” the director said at a press conference on Thursday. “Simply put, this shouldn’t have happened.”
“I am grieved, and frankly I am shocked– I am sickened by what I saw,” he added.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis said earlier this week that the group of officers in the video—Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were “directly responsible” for the “physical abuse” of Nichols, calling the officers’ actions “heinous, reckless, and inhumane”.
“This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individualism,” she said in a video statement.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee also investigating Nichols’s death, suggesting the former officers involved in the arrest could face further federal charges on top of local ones.
The family of Tyre Nichols has asked protesters to show their support peacefully.
“It’s going to be horrific, but I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” Ms Wells said at a vigil on Thursday, the night before the video was released.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated with new information.