Memphis police beat man for three minutes during traffic stop, lawyers say | CBC News

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Warning: This story contains graphic images. 

A lawyer for the family of a Black man who died at a hospital three days after a confrontation with police during a traffic stop said Monday that video of the encounter shows it was “violent” and “troublesome on every level.”

Attorney Ben Crump said during a news conference that the footage of the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols “is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous.”

Crump, who viewed the footage hours earlier along with Nichols’ family and their other lawyers, said it reminded them of the infamous video of the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King.

“Regrettably, it reminded us of Rodney king video,” he said. “And unlike Rodney King, Tyre didn’t survive.”

Another of the family’s attorneys, Antonio Romanucci, said the beating of Nichols lasted three minutes.

“He was a human pinata for those police officers,” Romanucci said.

Crump said the authorities won’t release the video to the public for a week or two, but that it will be released.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy issued a statement Monday saying investigators don’t want to release the video to the public yet because they don’t want to risk compromising the investigation.

During a protest in Memphis on Jan. 14, Tyre Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells, right, holds a photo of Nichols in the hospital after his arrest. (Jordan James/WREG via The Associated Press)

Death was result of beating, family says

Nichols, a 29-year-old father, FedEx worker and avid skateboarder, died Jan. 10 at a hospital, authorities said.

Nichols was arrested after officers stopped him for reckless driving, police said.

In a news release the day after his arrest, the police department said that as officers approached the vehicle, “a confrontation occurred” and Nichols ran.

According to the release, officers caught up to him and “another confrontation occurred” while they were taking him into custody. Police said Nichols complained of shortness of breath and was hospitalized.

Relatives have said the officers who pulled over Nichols were in an unmarked vehicle and that he experienced cardiac arrest and kidney failure from the officers beating him.

Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency. Officials said a cause of death has not been determined.

Five side-by-side images of men in police uniforms.
This combination photo shows officers with the Memphis Police Department who were fired after their involvement in a traffic stop that ended with the death of Tyre Nichols. From left are officers Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Justin Smith and Tadarrius Bean. (Memphis Police Department/Reuters)

5 officers involved in arrest fired

Memphis Police Department Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis announced Friday that five officers involved in the arrest were fired after the police probe determined that they used excessive force or failed to intervene and render aid.

Nichols’ family, protesters and activists have called for the video’s release and for the officers to be charged with murder.

The officers have been identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. All five are Black.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether police used excessive force.

Protesters hold signs and megaphones while standing on a sidewalk.
Family members and activists held a rally for Tyre Nichols at the National Civil Rights Museum on Monday. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian/The Associated Press)

Call for peaceful protests

City and community leaders have expressed concern about the possibility of civil unrest following the video’s release.

Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said Monday the family hopes that any protests remain peaceful.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, said Sunday that the predominantly Black city has been on edge since the arrest, which he called “horrific and senseless.”

“The release of the tape may certainly aggravate the feelings of hurt, sorrow and embarrassment that we are all feeling,” Parkinson said. “However, the need for transparency is vitally important in all cases of police involved deaths.”

Van Turner, president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, also acknowledged that Memphis appears tense as it waits for the video’s release. But he praised the city and the police department for taking “quick action” in firing the officers.

“We will continue to monitor and support a fair and just resolution to this matter,” Turner said. “We join the call for peaceful protests as we all work towards making sure that proper measures are put in place to prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future.”

WATCH | Quebec acts on controversial police stops: 

Citing racial profiling, Quebec court to ban random police stops

In a landmark legal ruling, Quebec’s top court has banned arbitrary traffic stops by police in response to a legal challenge brought by a Black man who said he was stopped randomly by police at least 10 times in 18 months. Experts say it could set the stage for similar challenges across Canada.



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