Black man screamed for his ‘mom’ as US cops brutally beat him
At first it looks like an arrest for a traffic violation. But police videos released Friday of the fatal beating of Tire Nichols end with Memphis police officers stomping and kneeling on the 29-year-old black man as he weakens from the beatings.
Bodycam footage shows Nichols on the ground, crying plaintively three times, “Mom!” as officers punch and kick him in the face. He died in hospital on January 10, three days later.
The longest of the four videos came from an aerial camera on a utility pole in the southern US town. It is 31 minutes long and has no sound.
Two minutes later, officers are seen manhandling Nichols to the ground. As one of them kneels on his chest, another officer kicks him repeatedly.
Officers are seen aiming multiple kicks at Nichols’ face. After repeated kicks, officers lift Nichols to a standing position, supporting him while punching him with their fists until he falls to the asphalt – when they fire two more kicks in the face.
He is lying face down. An officer pulls him to a cruiser and puts him in a sitting position.
Minutes pass with Nichols in agony. At least six officers are busy. A flashlight is shone on Nichols, although the scene is fairly well lit by streetlamps.
In one extended section, Nichols’ slumped body is leaning on the ground against a police cruiser, his head bent over his chest and his legs in front of him. His upper half repeatedly collapses to the ground – only to be backed up again by the police present.
Other officers introduce themselves. They circle around the scene, waiting for the emergency medical technicians to show up.
There is no clear moment when it becomes apparent that the beatings against Nichols would end up costing him his life.
The other three videos released by the Memphis Police Department all come from officers’ chest cameras and offer different perspectives.
In one, officers catch Nichols after a foot chase. Several officers are exhausted.
Nichols is pinned to the ground. “I didn’t do anything,” Nichols breathes. “You don’t do that, okay?
“Go to the field!” a commanding officer.
In another dramatic video, officers fired a Taser at Nichols but he fled. The police catch up to him, shouting curses.
An officer pepper sprays Nichols, subduing him.
A fourth video contains scenes of officers who remained after Nichols’ escape.
An officer radios a police dispatcher: “Young black guy, thin, blue jeans and hoodie.”
Officers give each other water from a water bottle. One is bent over in exhaustion, hands on knees. Another appears to wind the wire from the Taser fired at Nichols onto its spool.
“I have to find my glasses,” an officer said, breathing heavily. Footage later shows him picking up his glasses from the pavement where they fell.
Addressing an emotional press conference earlier on Friday, the victim’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, called the officers she said beat her son ‘to a pulp’, telling them: ‘You have dishonored your own families when you did that.”
President Joe Biden, who has joined local officials in calling for the protests to remain peaceful, spoke with Wells on Friday to offer his condolences and salute “the courage and strength of the family.”
The man’s mother was “obviously in tremendous pain,” Biden said, adding that she had “made a very strong plea” for peaceful protests.
The father of a four-year-old son, Nichols worked for FedEx, loved skateboarding and taking photos, and had a tattoo of his mother’s name on his arm.
“My heart is breaking,” Wells said at the press conference. “So that a mother would know that her child was calling to her in her need, and that I was not there for her.”
“My son was a beautiful soul,” Wells said. “He was a good boy. Nobody’s perfect. But he was damn close.”
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis compared the video to footage of the beating of Rodney King in 1991, which sparked days of riots in Los Angeles that left dozens dead.
“I was in law enforcement during the Rodney King incident, it’s very much in line with that same type of behavior,” Davis said. “I would say it’s about the same, if not worse.”
– Police brutality –
Nichols’ mother accused police of initially trying to cover up her son’s beatings, coming to her door to say he was arrested for drunk driving and pepper sprayed and Taser sprayed afterwards having been difficult to handcuff.
The young man’s death drew immediate comparisons to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, another black man whose choking by a white police officer in Minneapolis was caught on camera.
Video of Floyd’s death has spread rapidly, sparking a massive wave of sometimes violent protests across the country and beyond, and reigniting scrutiny of race relations and a culture of police brutality in the United States.
Police officer Derek Chauvin was subsequently convicted of murder, in what was considered a landmark case after he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes.
At a Memphis skatepark where Nichols was a resident, flowers and candles were laid out next to signs demanding “Justice for Tyr”.
Robert Walters, a 67-year-old blues musician visiting the city from Virginia, said he and his wife would return home early to avoid violence.
“I’m a black man living in America. And that fear is still something that me and my son grew up and live with,” he told AFP, referring to police brutality.
Officers involved in the fatal beating of Nichols were taken into custody following a swift internal investigation which revealed they used excessive force and failed to bring help.
In addition to the second-degree murder charges, the officers also face charges of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.
Four of the five people were released from jail after posting bail, US media reported on Friday, citing jail records.
The fact that the officers themselves are black “hurts,” Walters said.
“These guys, you’d think anyone should know (better), but it just shows you that anyone can fall into this trap,” he said.
“I just want people to be calm and not do anything stupid or destroy or hurt.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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