By Adrian Sainz | The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A lawyer for the family of a Black man who died at a hospital three days after a confrontation with police during a traffic stop said Monday that video of the encounter shows it was “violent” and “troublesome on every level.”
The footage of Tyre Nichols’ Jan. 7 arrest “is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous,” attorney Ben Crump said during a news conference.
Crump, who viewed the footage earlier Monday along with Nichols’ family and their other lawyers, said it reminded them of the infamous video of the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King.
“Regrettably, it reminded us of Rodney king video. … And unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive,” he said.
Nichols, a 29-year-old father, FedEx worker and avid skateboarder, was arrested after officers stopped him for reckless driving, police said. In a news release the day after his arrest, the department said that as officers approached Nichols’ vehicle, “a confrontation occurred’ and he ran. It said officers caught up to him and that ”another confrontation occurred” while they were taking him into custody. Police said he complained of shortness of breath and was hospitalized.
Nichols died Jan. 10 at the hospital. His family said the beating caused him to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency. Officials said a cause of death hasn’t been determined.
“My son died on Jan. 7. The doctors pulled the plug on Jan. 10,” Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells said Monday.
Crump said Nichols was tased, pepper sprayed and restrained during the encounter. Another of the family’s attorneys, Antonio Romanucci, said police beat Nichols for three minutes.
“He was a human piñata for those police officers,” Romanucci said.
City and community leaders have expressed concern about the possibility of civil unrest following the eventual release of the video. Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told reporters that the family hopes any protests remain peaceful.
Crump said the authorities won’t release the video for a week or two, but that it will be released.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy issued a statement Monday saying authorities don’t want the make the video public yet because they don’t want to risk compromising the investigation.
Five officers involved in the arrest were fired after the police probe determined that they used excessive force or failed to intervene and render aid, police department Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis announced Friday.
Nichols’ family, protesters and activists have called for the officers to be charged with murder.
The officers have been identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. All five are Black.
The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether excessive force was used.
Attorneys for Nichols’ family say the officers who pulled him over were in an unmarked car
RowVaughn Wells said her son didn’t carry a gun or seek confrontation, and that police had no reason to stop him.
Rodney Wells said Nichols had good reason to run from the officers.
“Our son ran because he was scared for his life,” he said. “And when you see the video you’ll see why he was scared for his life.
The Nichols case is the latest high-profile death case to rattle the city. Since November 2021, Memphis has seen the fatal shooting of rapper Young Dolph in a daytime ambush at a bakery; a crime rampage in which a man has been charged with fatally shooting three people and wounding three others; the killing of a United Methodist Church pastor during a carjacking in her driveway; and the early-morning kidnapping of a jogger whose body was later found near a house.
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