Tyre Nichols was restrained, beaten, blasted with a Taser and pepper sprayed by officers after a traffic stop, family members say, before he died from his injuries on Jan. 10, three days after the police encounter.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy recently announced indictments against five former Memphis police officers who were fired for their actions during Nichols’ arrest. Video footage of Nichols’ arrest is expected to be released sometime after 7 p.m. ET tonight, with cities nationwide bracing for protests.
Mulroy said with any officer-involved fatality, there will be a “certain amount of public agitation.”
“When people actually see with their own eyes the kinds of things that occurred in this incident, there’s an even greater potential for very serious public reaction,” Mulroy told “CBS Mornings” co-host Gayle King. “There’s room for protest if people feel the need. We are confident that the protests will be peaceful.”
Mulroy said the charges against the officers involved had to be announced before the release of the video due to the possibility of public outrage.
Authorities have not released many details regarding what led to Nichols’ arrest and what happened after he was pulled over. What we do know is that the night of Jan. 7, Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx worker who was an avid skateboarder, was coming home from a suburban park where he took photos of the sunset, according to his family’s attorneys. On the way home, he was stopped for reckless driving, according to Memphis police.
As officers approached Nichols to arrest him, a “confrontation” occurred, and Nichols fled, according to police. A second “confrontation” occurred at some point before Nichols was arrested. He complained of having a shortness of breath, and an ambulance was called, police said. Nichols was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Three days later, on Jan. 10, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said he died of his injuries, but did not elaborate on what they were or release a cause of death.
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, told CBS affiliate WREG-TV that his stepson suffered cardiac arrest and kidney failure due to the beating by officers.
The five Memphis officers charged in Nichols’ death are Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith. They were fired on Jan. 20. All five are Black.
King asked Mulroy — who announced on Thursday that a grand jury had handed down indictments on charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression against all five former officers — to offer perspective on how bad the tape of Nichols’ arrest is.
“Suffice it to say we believe there was no ambiguity in the tape,” he said. “Once they see it, I don’t think there will be debate on whether use of force was justified.”
Even so, Mulroy said the majority of police are “well-intended, dedicated and well-meaning people,” in regards to whether the Nichols’ arrest is the result of a problem with policing in the U.S. involving people of color. Mulroy mentioned the need for citizen review boards in cities to quell problems.
“My hope is that this will spark a broader conversation about how we can change that culture and improve supervision,” he said.
Mulroy said a number of activists and community leaders who happen to be people of color have said they feared the reaction to the video will be “one of more of pain and disappointment on the part of the African American community.”
“I can’t speak to that, but what I can say is, there’s an expression in the community of blue trumping Black,” he said.
Mulroy added that with cases like the one involving Nichols, race is a crucial element.
“The most relevant consideration is not the race of the officer,” Mulroy said, “but the race of the citizen involved.”
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