Bodycam video shows Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols during arrest

The video of Tyre Nichols' arrest is violent and disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Memphis Police Force Investigation
Tyre Nichols
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-28 00:25:31-05

Authorities released bodycam footage showing five Memphis Police Department officers brutally beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols following a traffic stop.

In four different clips, officers are seen spraying Nichols with what appears to be pepper spray, beating him with a baton and kicking him in the head.

One of the clips is from a pole camera. It shows the officers beating Nichols and standing around after they subdue him.

Nichols remained on the ground for about 25 minutes without police or medical personnel addressing his injuries. Nichols' face was beaten and bloodied.

Emergency crews brought out a gurney but he remained on the ground for several minutes before an ambulance drives into view.

Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after the incident. He was reportedly returning home from taking pictures at a park when he was pulled over.

The officers -- Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith -- were fired and charged with second-degree murder and other crimes.

The Shelby County sheriff announced Friday that two deputies on the scene after the beating were relieved of their duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Nichols' family got an opportunity to watch the video prior to it being released to the public. RowVaughn Wells, Nichols' mother, said Friday that she could not watch the video in its entirety due to its graphic nature.

“What I’ve heard is very horrific, very horrific. And any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it,” she said.

Wells added that the five police officers are a “disgrace” who brought shame to their families and their community. "For me to find out my son was calling out my name and I was only feet away and didn't even hear him, you have no clue how I feel right now," she said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Thursday that the video's release is an attempt to be transparent with the community.

"The actions of these officers were awful, and no one, including law enforcement, is above the law," he said. "I assure you we will do everything we can to keep this type of heinous act from happening again."

The Department of Justice said on Friday that it opened a civil rights investigation into the case. FBI Director Christopher Wray said he was "appalled" by was he saw in the video."I am struggling to find a stronger word, but I was appalled," Wray said.

Wray said all FBI field offices have been alerted to coordinate a response to protests that could potentially get out of hand in response to the actions of the former officers.

Following the release of the bodycam video, two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office who responded to the scene were relieved of their duties.

"Having watched the videotape for the first time tonight, I have concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene following the physical confrontation between police and Tyre Nichols. I have launched an internal investigation into the conduct of these deputies to determine what occurred and if any policies were violated. Both of these deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of this administrative investigation," Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. said in a statement.

Stacey Hervey, an affiliate professor for criminal justice at Metropolitan State University Denver, says the violent arrest taints the field of law enforcement.

"I don't think you'll have any officer out there who's going to defend these officers. But it does create a huge rift between society and police because we see videos like this," she said.

Over the years, deadly cases of excessive force have made national headlines. Hervey says she doesn't believe they're happening more often, but now the public is able to see it for themselves.

"With telephones, body cameras, and cameras, we're becoming much more aware of these, and rightly so. I think the public does deserve to see these body cameras and what can happen when police abuse their power," Hervey said. "What was even more disturbing is there really was no intervention, and they did not render aid. And there's, in no policy or procedure book should you ever kick someone in the head when they're on the ground."

It's tough for her to say what will prevent violence like this by officers from ever happening again.

"It's so multifaceted. I think, obviously, vetting officers, strong officers, before you hire them, and then a thorough training process," Hervey said. "But there's always going to be people who abuse their power."

Hervey suggests, now, to let the criminal justice system see this case through.

"These are brutal to watch, but the majority of our police officers really are trying to do what needs to be done and are going out there every day and interacting with the public and not engaging in this type of brutality," she said.

The video of Tyre Nichol's arrest is disturbing. If you or someone you know is in need of help, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255. For resources specific to Black wellness, visit Therapy for Black Men or Therapy for Black Girls.