Tyre Nichols: US prosecutors charge Memphis cops with murder
President Biden has called for "peaceful" protests as five former officers face second-degree murder and other charges in the arrest and death of the 29-year-old Black motorist
Five former Memphis police officers, all of whom were fired last week, were booked into Tennessee's Shelby County Jail on Thursday.
The five have been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression in the arrest and death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black motorist and father.
The crime of second-degree murder is punishable by 15-60 years in prison under Tennessee law.
What happened during the arrest of John Nichols?
The former officers, who are also Black, are accused of having brutally beaten Nichols after a traffic stop on January 7.
Nichols was hospitalized after his arrest and died three days later, on January 10. An autopsy found he had suffered "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."
At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said that although each officer had played a different role in Nichols' killing, "they are all responsible."
Mulroy said body camera video would be made public on Friday evening, adding, "After everyone sees the video, I don't think they'll have any questions about those charges."
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family, said the body camera footage showed officers taser, pepper spray and restrain Nichols for a traffic violation near his home as he returned from taking pictures of the sunset in a nearby park.
Crump described the three-minute beating as "savage," noting that it ended with Nichols calling out for his mother three times.
How have officials reacted to the killing of John Nichols?
US President Joe Biden called for peaceful protests after charges were announced Thursday. Biden said Nichols' death "is a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all."
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in a social media video statement late Wednesday that it was not just a "professional failing."
"This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual," she said.
Davis, a Black woman, called the incident "heinous, reckless and inhumane."
She said the officers had been "directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols," adding that other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy.
Davis pledged a "complete and independent review" on all of the Memphis Police Department's specialized units.
Speaking directly to Memphis citizens about what she expected when body camera footage is made public, Davis said: "I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights."
She then emphasized, "None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens."
A 'savage' beating similar to that of Rodney King
The Nichols' family lawyer Crump and his team say the beating reminded them of the infamous 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King, video of which sparked mass protests across the US and led to police reforms.
"This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop," Crump and colleague Antonio Romanucci said in a statement. "This tragedy meets the absolute definition of a needless and unnecessary death."
Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, told news agency Associated Press (AP) that he and his wife, Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells, were comfortable with the second-degree murder charges despite having pushed for first-degree murder charges.
"There's other charges, so I'm alright with that,'' Wells said, adding that he was "ecstatic" that authorities had moved quickly in resolving the case.
Well-known civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton also welcomed news of the charges, saying, "There is no point to putting a body camera on a cop if you aren't going to hold them accountable when the footage shows them relentlessly beating a man to death.''
Sharpton, who will deliver the eulogy at Nichols' funeral, said, "Firings are not enough. Indictments and arrests are not convictions. As we've done in the past... we will stand by this family until justice is done."