Memphis, TN – Pole video showed a horrifying scene as Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers beat and kicked 29-year-old Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop earlier this month, and bodycam videos released by officials on Friday night offered more insight about what led up to the incident that ended with five cops facing murder charges.
The incident began just before 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 after MPD officers observed Nichols weaving in and out of traffic and stopped his car at an intersection, according to one of four videos released by the police department on Jan. 27.
In Video No. 4, after Nichols had been taken into custody, the officers can be heard talking about the reason they initially stopped the driver.
“He on something,” one of the officers said. “That motherf–ker on something.”
“Look, he cutting through traffic,” another officer added.
In Video No. 1, bodycam showed officers pulled up to the right of, in front of, and directly behind the suspect vehicle and boxed him in.
Some of the officers had their weapons drawn as other officers pulled Nichols from the driver’s seat of his vehicle.
The video showed the suspect immediately began resisting arrest and despite his comments of “alright, alright, alright” to the officers, he refused to follow commands to lay on his stomach after they took the struggling man to the ground.
Initially, Nichols appeared to be resisting without aggression and the officers used only their hands to try to take him into custody.
The officers appeared to use light hands on the suspect and none of them knelt on his back or attempted to put any weight on him at all, the video showed.
Nichols resisted, sat back up, and refused to lay on the ground as an officer yelled at him repeatedly to follow commands or he would Tase him.
The bodycam showed that even as an officer held a Taser up against Nichols, the suspect continued to roll around and resist being taken into custody.
“You guys are really doing a lot right now,” Nichols complained in the video. “I’m just trying to go home.”
Two seconds later, Nichols was able to get to his feet and break free of the officers’ hold on him, bodycam showed.
He fled on foot and an officer deployed a Taser at him, but the video showed Nichols pulled off his sweatshirt where the prongs had been embedded and kept running as if the less-lethal device had no effect on him.
Several officers chased after Nichols on foot and others followed in patrol vehicles, the video showed.
Two of the officers who had been pepper-sprayed during the altercation – including the officer who Tased Nichols – quickly returned to the scene of the traffic stop and remained with the suspect vehicle until backup arrived after the fleeing suspect had been taken into custody blocks away.
Video No. 3 is bodycam of what happened when the officers chasing Nichols caught up with him at Castlegate and Bear Creek Lane.
No. 3 includes bodycam of the same incident that was filmed by the SkyCop camera on a pole overhead and began about two minutes and 15 seconds before the aerial camera detected the incident and pivoted to film it.
That video showed Nichols wildly resisting when a third officer approached to assist the first two officers who had caught up with the suspect and were struggling to take him into custody.
One minute and 35 seconds into Video No. 3, there was a sudden shift from the officers holding Nichols and they began quickly striking him. It’s unclear from the video what prompted the sudden change among the officers.
Then the third officer pepper-sprayed the suspect and Nichols began screaming for his mother.
The video showed the suspect continued to twist and fight the officers and tried to get to his feet to flee once again as a fourth officer joined the fray.
Then Nichols lunged for one of the officer’s holstered guns at two minutes and four seconds into Video No. 3.
An officer deployed pepper spray yet again, briefly subduing the suspect and also spraying one of his fellow officers in the face, the video showed.
That was when the SkyCop camera on a pole – Video No. 2 – caught up with the action, the Commercial Appeal reported.
The most widely-shared of the videos showed an aerial view of two officers struggling with Nichols on the ground, although they both remained on their feet, right after he tried to take an officer’s gun.
The video showed one officer briefly knelt to try to get control of the suspect’s hands but quickly stood up again as the suspect continued to resist.
The officers continued not to put any weight on Nichols or exert any type of control besides grabbing his arms.
A third officer approached and, after observing from a few feet away, stepped up to the suspect wriggling on the ground and kicked him in the head.
It appeared that officer bent over and yelled something at the suspect (there is no audio in the pole video) and then stood up and kicked Nichols in the head again.
That was when the officer who had been pepper-sprayed during the struggle returned to the altercation, and after observing from beside a patrol vehicle for a few seconds, pulled out his extendable baton and opened it to its full length.
The video showed that Nichols continued to resist arrest and the officer with the baton struck him three times.
After that, officers had Nichols’ hands behind his back and appeared to be more in control of him.
But while some of the aerial footage appeared to show the officers holding the suspect up, bodycam showed that initially they were actually trying to hang onto him as he was trying to pull away and flee them again.
One officer could be seen pulling on him in an apparent attempt to pull him back down.
Then the officer wearing that bodycam filming the scene turned and walked away from the altercation as the pole camera simultaneous filmed the officer repeatedly punching Nichols in the head.
Just as officers got Nichols into handcuffs, two more officers arrived on scene and kicked Nichols in the abdomen.
Then bodycam video showed officers propped him up against a police car and that he flopped over to the side six times and repeatedly having to be propped back up, The New York Times reported.
Officers in the video asked Nichols several times what drugs he was on and twice he told them “alcohol.”
He was ultimately transported to the hospital in critical condition and died three days later from injuries sustained during his confrontation with police, the Commercial Appeal reported.
Two Memphis Fire Department EMTs have been suspended pending an investigation into their handling of the incident after bodycam video showed they arrived on the scene and didn’t immediately intervene to assist the injured suspect, The New York Times reported.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis fired five of the officers involved in the incident on Jan. 20, NBC News reported.
Chief Davis was quick to condemn the incident and said there was no video evidence to support the officers’ claims of Nichols’ reckless driving.
However, the police chief failed to explain that Memphis police cars are not equipped with dashcams and that bodycam video supported the officers’ version of how the traffic stop initially unfolded.
Now-former Memphis Police Officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 26, NBC News reported.
Each of the officers, all of whom are black, was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault-acting in concert, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct, and one count of official oppression, the Commercial Appeal reported.
Each of the five officers posted a $250,000 bond and all of them were released from the Shelby County Jail within 24 hours of being arrested, Daily Memphian reported.
Prosecutors said several of the officers involved in the incident were members of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) Unit, a newly-formed anti-violence task force, NBC News reported.
On Jan. 28, Chief Davis announced she was disbanding the new unit, composed of three teams of about 30 officers that targeted violent offenders the highest crime areas in Memphis, PBS reported.
MPD posts their policy manual online, but their use of force section is missing from the online policy manual.
The Police Tribune reached out to the Memphis Police Department for a copy of their use-of-force policy but had not yet received a response at publication time.