Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis warned on Friday (January 27) that video of the traffic stop that led to the death of 29-year-old Black man Tyre Nicols defies humanity and may be worse than footage of the 1991 beating of Rodney King.
Davis gave her first interview since Nichols died on January 10, three days after what police previously called a “confrontation” with Memphis officers, bracing the public for what they will see in body camera footage of the stop, which is set to be released Friday evening.
The interview comes after five officers, who were terminated last week, were booked into jail Thursday (January 26) on charges including murder, assault, and kidnapping in connection to Nichols’ death.
Since Thursday’s arrest, four of the officers — Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III, and Tadarrius Bean — have been released on a combined $1 million bond, the Daily Mail reports. A fifth officer, Demetrius Haley, is still in custody as of Friday on a $350,000 bond.
Though the victim’s family and officials have viewed body camera footage of the stop, police have released minimal details about the events leading to Nichols’ death. The Memphis Police Department said in its initial statement he was pulled over for reckless driving on January 7, and a “confrontation” followed after he “fled the scene on foot.”
Nichols complained of having shortness of breath and was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he died days after the traffic stop.
Ahead of the video release, Chief Davis said Friday that there was “no proof” that Tyre was driving recklessly when officers stopped him.
“I’m sure that individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don’t, then you’re not a human being,” the police chief said. “I would say it is about the same if not worse than the 1991 beating of Rodney King. A group-think mentality.”
Davis added that Nichols can be heard calling out for his mother in the video.
“Yes, he cried out for me, because I’m his mother,” Row Vaughn Wells told CNN in a separate interview on Friday. “He was trying to get home to safety. He was a mamma’s boy.”
“I was feeling my son’s pain as they were beating him to death,” Wells continued, noting that Nichols was “beat like a pinata.” “They brought shame to their own families. They brought shame to the black community.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to cover Nichols’ case and funeral expenses.
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