DENVER — Video showing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers on Jan. 7 shocked the nation and led to protests around the country, including in Denver.
Nichols died three days later in the hospital.
For Denver community activist Alexander Landau, the video brought back bad memories.
“It was very triggering for me,” said Landau. “Another display of senseless dehumanization of Black life.”
Fourteen years ago, he was beaten during a traffic stop by Denver police officers.
Photos published in federal court documents show his bloodied and bruised face.
The officers involved in the incident were not charged, but Landau sued the city and received a nearly $800,000 settlement, one of the largest in Denver’s history.
Landau says because of his own experience the Tyre Nichols video was very hard to watch.
“For me, it was a rush of memories, a rush of frustration, a variety of emotions,” said Landau. “This is a pattern in practice that goes far beyond the United States, certainly, beyond Tennessee.”
According to the Denver Police Department’s new online transparency and performance data dashboard, 41 people have died since 2015 as officers took or attempted to take them into custody.
Three-quarters of the people who died were people of color, according to the dashboard.
Police said almost all the people who died were armed with weapons and threatened officers.
But in Memphis, Nichols was not armed.
Landau, who is the founder of the Denver Justice Project and who won an Emmy in 2016 for sharing his story in an animated short film, is renewing his calls for major police reform nationwide.
“There are specific people who cannot handle being in positions of authority over other people,” said Landau.
He says the focus should be on removing police from situations where they are not needed.
He points to Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, which is in the process of expanding, as a perfect example.
Instead of police, STAR sends mental health counselors to non-life-threatening 911 calls.
“I think we need to think a little bit bigger about that,” said Landau, who served on STAR’s community advisory board. “What does community safety, community health and safety look like in a world where law enforcement are not the primary form or force that we use to deal with crisis?”
At a citizen oversight board meeting on Friday, Denver’s public safety department executive director, Armando Saldate, added his name to the list of officials in Colorado who have condemned the Memphis officers who beat Tyre Nichols.
"I was frankly disgusted and still pretty upset by the situation," said Saldate. "We have had lots of conversations in the Department of Safety with our public safety leaders around this."
Officials in Memphis said there are about 20 hours of additional footage that have yet to be released.
Nichols’ parents will attend President Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday.