On Friday, hours before the footage is expected to be released publicly, the Memphis police chief told CNN that the video footage of Tyre Nichols's death shows "acts that defy humanity."
“You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we’re all sworn to and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcement,” Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis said of the video, which will be released on YouTube.
According to a police statement, Nichols, 29, was pulled over by Memphis officers on January 7 for reckless driving. After officers approached Nichols' vehicle, a "confrontation" occurred, and he fled on foot. Police said they pursued him and had another "confrontation" before taking him into custody. After complaining of shortness of breath, Nichols was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and died three days later.
The Memphis Police Department has fired five officers for violating policies governing excessive force, intervening, and rendering aid, all of whom are Black. As of Friday, former officers Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct, and one charge of official oppression.
Throughout the country, police have been criticized for their treatment of Black people, particularly following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 20, 2020. Davis compared the video to the 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King which sparked national outrage.
Demonstrations are being urged to remain civil with the release of the footage expected on Friday.
On Friday, Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told CNN, “It’s still like a nightmare right now. I’m still trying to understand all of this and trying to wrap my head around all of this,” Wells said. “I don’t have my baby. I’ll never have my baby again.”
In describing her reaction to the video, Davis said she heard Nichols “call out for his mother, for his mom.”
“Just the disregard for humanity … That’s what really pulls at your heartstrings and makes you wonder: Why was a sense of care and concern for this individual just absent from the situation by all who went to the scene?”
Davis said her department has not been able to substantiate the reckless driving stop that led to Nichols' death, which occurred days after a January 7 reckless driving stop in Memphis.
The tragic and needless death of Tyre Nichols is a grim reminder that some individual Black police officers are active perpetrators of white supremacy. The systemic racism within police departments and the criminal justice system as a whole means all police officers, regardless of their race, contribute to maintaining white supremacy in society via violence against Black people.