'Heinous': Tyre Nichols's family, Crump view police footage of arrest after Nichols's death

Tyre Nichols's stepfather Rodney Wells, center, with a photo of Nichols in the hospital after his arrest, during a protest in Memphis, Tenn.
Tyre Nichols's stepfather Rodney Wells, center, with a photo of Nichols in the hospital after his arrest, during a protest in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (Jordan James/WREG via AP)

On Monday, the family of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died three days after a traffic stop involving Memphis, Tenn., police, saw the footage of the arrest for the first time.

In a press conference held at Mt. Olive Cathedral CME Church in Memphis, the family stood alongside civil rights attorney Ben Crump and his legal team and described what they saw in the video. Crump says Nichols’s mother couldn’t get through the first minute before getting emotional over the death of her youngest son.

“I’m a hurt mother, no mother, I don’t care what color — black, white, pink, purple should go through this,” Nichols’s mother said at the presser. “My son didn’t do no drug[s], didn’t carry no guns, he didn’t like confrontation, none of that, that’s why this is so hard,” she said.

Crump said that the officers brutalized Nichols and caused his death. He described the video as appalling. “It is deplorable, it is heinous, violent, it is very troublesome on every level.”

“Regrettably it reminded us of the Rodney King video, and unlike Rodney King, Tyre did not survive,” Crump added.

Rodney King
Police brutality victim Rodney King at a Los Angeles news conference, May 1, 1992. (David Longstreath/AP)

Crump’s co-counsel described Nichols as defenseless in the video. “He was a piñata to those police officers, it was an unadulterated, unabashed nonstop beating of this young boy for three minutes,” lawyer Antonio Romanucci said during the press conference.

Crump says Tyre asked, “What did I do?” and said “I just want to go home” several times during the arrest. And during the final moments in the video, Tyre called out for his mom multiple times while he was less than 100 yards from his home.

Last week, the five officers involved in the Jan. 7 arrest, all of whom are Black, were terminated. The department named the officers as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith.

“After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five Memphis Police Department officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid,” Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in a statement.

Officers who were terminated after their involvement in a traffic stop that ended with the death of Tyre Nichols
The police officers who were terminated after their involvement in a traffic stop that ended with the death of Tyre Nichols: from left, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean. (Memphis Police Department/Handout via Reuters)

Crump acknowledged that the officers involved were Black, but said that it’s “not the race of police officers that is the determining factor of the excessive force that will be exerted, it is the race of the citizen,” Crump said.

According to a Jan. 8 statement from police, Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving. A “confrontation” ensued when officers approached the vehicle and Nichols fled the scene on foot. Police said a second confrontation occurred when officers tried to take Nichols into custody.

Nichols father says there have been several misleading comments on social media on why his son ran. “Our son ran because he was scared for his life.”

“All my son was trying to do was get home. He was two minutes from the house when they stopped him. He was less than 80 yards away when they murdered him,” Nichols mother said.

Eventually, Nichols was apprehended, and shortly after he complained of “shortness of breath” and an ambulance was called to the scene.

Nichols was in critical condition upon his arrival to the hospital, where he later died on Jan. 10. During the press conference on Monday, his mother described seeing her son in the hospital. “When I walked into that hospital room he was already dead. My son died on January 7. The doctors pulled the plug on January 10,” she said.

A portrait of Tyre Nichols is displayed at a memorial service for him
A portrait of Tyre Nichols at a memorial service for him in Memphis. (Adrian Sainz/AP)

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said the department is working with the district attorney’s office to determine the best time to release the video to the public.

“Transparency remains a priority in this incident, and a premature release could adversely impact the criminal investigation and the judicial process,” Davis said in a statement on Jan 23.

Crump says authorities are asking for one to two weeks for the full video to be released so they can provide a thorough investigation and ensure the family receives justice. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating, according to a Jan. 17 statement from the city.

Nichols’s family wants the officers involved in Nichols’s arrest to be charged with first-degree murder.

“You should not be killed because of a simple traffic stop,” Crump said. “However you would treat our white brothers and sisters when you have a traffic stop, treat our black brothers and sisters the same way.”