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Memphis police release video showing fatal beating of Tyre Nichols

The footage shared by the Memphis Police Department shows disturbing and graphic conduct that the city’s top police official has previously called “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”
/ Source: NBC News

Video released by authorities in Memphis Friday shows police officers beating Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop that ended with his hospitalization and death.

The four videos released by the Memphis Police Department include video from surveillance and body worn cameras. 

The city’s top police official, Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, has previously described the conduct captured in the disturbing and graphic video as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

The video is available here. Warning: It shows graphic violence that could be disturbing.

Nichols, 29, was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days after Memphis police officers stopped him Jan. 7. Details about what occurred between Nichols and the officers have been sparse; police initially said Nichols ran during the reckless driving stop and that a “confrontation” occurred in an effort to detain him.

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However, Davis told MSNBC Friday that an investigation and review of available camera footage could not “substantiate” the reckless driving claim.

Family, lawyers describe video as ‘horrific’

Nichols’ family was offered a private viewing of the video Monday. His mother, RowVaughn Wells, made it only through the first minute, family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said.

While she hasn’t seen all the footage, Wells said “what I’ve heard is very horrific.”

“Any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it,” she added during a news conference Friday.

RowVaughn Wells, mother of Tyre Nichols, cries at a news conference in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 23, 2023.  Tyre's stepfather, Rodney Wells, stands behind her. Image:
Tyre Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, cries at a news conference Monday in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, stands behind her. Gerald Herbert / AP

Meanwhile, the Memphis community is bracing for potential protests in response to the video release, with Memphis-Shelby County Schools canceling after-school activities Friday and Southwest Tennessee Community College moving to virtual classes Friday. 

Wells called for people to protest peacefully during a candlelight vigil in Memphis’ Tobey Park on Thursday night.

“I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said.

Romanucci described the video Monday as an “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” for three minutes. Crump has said it reminded him of “the Rodney King video,” referring to the 1991 bystander video of Los Angeles police officers beating a Black man.

Nichols’ mother spoke on her heartbreak in an interview aired Friday morning on CNN, saying by the time she got to the hospital and saw Nichols following the arrest, “He was already gone.”

“They had beat him to a pulp. 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 looked like an “S”, she said.

Crump said Nichols’ last words in the video footage were three “gut-wrenching screams for his mom.”

Davis described the incident as “heinous, reckless and inhumane” in a video statement Wednesday night.

“I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels,” she said. “I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights, as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”

Biden calls for a transparent investigation

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday spoke on the video of Nichols’ arrest during a separate news conference, saying that “I’ve seen the video myself and I will tell you I was appalled.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that Nichols’ family deserves a “swift, full, and transparent investigation.”

“Tyre’s death is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all,” Biden said.

He also urged that any protests in the coming days remain peaceful, acknowledging that “outrage is understandable.”

More coverage on Tyre Nichols

The charges

Five officers involved in the case — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last week after an administrative investigation found they violated department policy on use of force.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told reporters the former officers’ actions resulted in Nichols’ death.

Mulroy said that after an “initial altercation” when “pepper spray was deployed,” Nichols ran from the officers.

“There was another altercation at a nearby location, where serious injuries were experienced by Mr. Nichols,” Mulroy continued. “After some period of time of waiting around afterward, he was taken away by an ambulance.”  

Five Memphis police officers were fired in connection with a traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. Clockwise from top left: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr.
Five Memphis, Tenn., police officers were fired in connection with a traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. Clockwise from top left: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr. Memphis Police Dept. via AP

The fired officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault, prosecutors announced Thursday.

In the Friday news conference, Nichols’ family and attorneys praised the swift charges and investigation.

“We look at how swiftly the district attorney brought charges against them in less than 20 days. Then we want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time any officers, whether they be black or white, will be held accountable,” Crump said.

All five are out of jail after posting bond as of Friday morning. Bean, Mills and Smith posted $250,000 bond; Haley and Martin posted $350,000 bond. 

Multiple attempts to reach the officers for comment since they were fired were unsuccessful.

Attorneys for Mills and Martin said their clients plan to plead not guilty. It was unclear if the others have retained legal representation.

Preliminary findings in an autopsy conducted by a forensic pathologist for Nichols’ family show he was severely beaten before he died, the family’s attorneys have said. The Shelby County medical examiner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death.

Nichols’ case is being investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department, which launched a civil rights inquiry into the traffic stop.This is a developing story and will be updated. This story first appeared on