‘Appalling, heinous’: Attorney compares Tyre Nichols video to Rodney King beating
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The family of Tyre Nichols, the man who died days after a confrontation with Memphis police, spoke Monday for the first time since seeing footage from the event that led to his death.
Nichols, 29, died on January 10, three days after a traffic stop turned into a confrontation that led to him being hospitalized.
Monday, Memphis Fire Department also confirmed that two MFD personnel who were involved in taking care of Tyre Nichols have been relieved of duty while an internal investigation is being conducted.
The family retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump and attorney Antonio Romanucci to represent them following Nichols’ death.
Family members and attorneys got the chance to review the footage Monday before it was publicly released. They also met with Memphis police.
Crump said Nichols’ mother was unable to sit through more than a minute of the video. In that first minute, Tyre asked police officers, “What did I do?” Crump said.
Crump called the video “appalling, heinous, violent and troublesome.”
“We’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops,” Crump said. “You should not be killed from a simple traffic stop.”
Crump says Police Chief CJ Davis told them before watching the video that she was not proud of what they were about to see.
“Regrettably, it reminded us of (the) Rodney King video,” Crump said.
He says Nichols was Tased, pepper sprayed and restrained from the footage they watched.
Romanucci says Nichols was defenseless during the events of the video. He says Tyre was “a human piñata” as he was being beaten by police.
“Not only was it violent, it was savage,” Romanucci said. He says Nichols was trying to get home to be with his mother--somewhere safe.
He says the officers were in unmarked cars and questioned why they were conducting traffic stops. He also said some of the officers were in uniform.
Nichols’ stepfather Rodney Wells says no parent should ever see what they had to watch.
“Family and the attorneys we have will not stop until we get justice,” he said. “And like I said from day one, justice for us is murder one, and anything less than that we will not accept.”
Nichol’s mother called him “near-perfect” and reflected on his love of skateboarding.
On Monday, dozens of skaters came to city hall in a show of support for Nichols’ family as they watched the video leading up to his death.
Many of the skaters who attended Monday’s demonstration say they didn’t know Tyre but couldn’t ignore the horrific death he endured.
Long-time skater and community activist Hunter Demster attended the demonstration and says Nichols’ mother reached out to him. When she learned that Demster was a skater like her son it brought her to tears.
Demster says getting the skating community together was important because they’re a close-knit group.
School board member Michelle McKissack also attended Monday’s demonstration―she says her sons were skaters and her heart goes out to Tyre’s mother.
“Clearly something went wrong, some training went wrong, and we have to be better. As a result of this, we can’t let Tyre’s life be in vain and that has to have meaning and purpose. We as a community have to be better as a result of this,” said McKissack.
Other skaters at the demonstration say they wanted to come out and support because they’re tired of the pattern they’ve seen from Memphis police and city officials.
“I’ve lost someone similar like in a similar incident, not in Memphis, but I’ve definitely lost someone in SoCal to police brutality so it resonated a little bit,” said Kameron Blakely, local skater.
Tyre’s mother says Nichols was just 80 yards from home when he was beaten.
“When I walked into that hospital room, he was already dead,” she said.
Officials have said the footage will not be released publicly until after the internal investigation is released.
“Transparency remains a priority in this incident, and a premature release could adversely impact the criminal investigation and the judicial process. We are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate time to release video recording publicly,” Police Chief CJ Davis said in a statement.
Local activist and pastor Devante Hill says he commends Chief Davis on her role of communication during this time.
Hill emphasized that although this situation occurred with Memphis police, it does not mean that all police officers have the same intentions. Hill is also urging the community to use this time to come together and recognize the greater issue.
“I think that we just have to stay in the empowerment of what happens when the community works together,” Hill said. “When the community works with the police department, when the police department works with city officials, city officials work with legislators, we can build a beautiful Memphis. I believe as I’ve always said, Memphis is going to be the catalyst of change for the entire world.”
Romanucci asked for patience until the time the video is released. He says they left their meeting with law enforcement confident that justice would be served.
Five Memphis Police officers were fired Friday for their involvement in Nichols’ traffic stop earlier this month: Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, Desmond Mills and Justin Smith.
All five police officers are Black, as well as Tyre--something Crump commented on.
“It is not the race of the police officer that is the determining factor of the amount of force, it is the race of the citizen,” Crump said. “...It is about the Black and brown citizens that get dealt excessive force from the police officers, whether they are Black, white or brown, and it has to stop.”
MPD determined the officers violated multiple policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid.
NAACP Memphis President Van Turner brought up past pushes for legislation in the wake of George Floyd’s death and said more must be done to make sure these policies are being followed.
“We’re here to show this family that Tyre Nichols death will not be in vain,” Turner said.
Wells called for any potential protests to be peaceful.
“That’s not what Tyre wanted, and that’s not going to bring him back,” Wells said.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said in a statement that he expects the video will be publicly released this week or next week.
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