(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — Tyre Nichols died at the age of 29 on Jan. 10, three days after a confrontation with police during a traffic stop arrest in Memphis, Tennessee.
The five Memphis Police Department officers involved in his arrest — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired and then charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ death.
Body camera footage of his alleged beating by the former officers, which is set to be released Friday, has been described as “appalling,” “deplorable,” “heinous,” “violent” and “troublesome on every level” by the attorney for the Nichols family.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Jan 27, 3:56 PM EST
Biden spoke with Nichols’ family, has not seen video
President Joe Biden has not seen the Tyre Nichols video that’s set to be released to the public Friday evening, but the president has spoken to Nichols’ family, according to the White House.
“He’s been briefed, but he has not seen the video, nor has anyone at the White House seen the video,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.
Biden spoke with Nichols’ mother and stepfather Friday afternoon to offer his condolences, a White House official said.
Jean Pierre reiterated that Biden has echoed Nichols’ family’s calls for calm and peaceful protests. But the White House is “in coordination with the relevant agencies to ensure they prepare if protests become violent,” she added.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Jan 27, 3:23 PM EST
Memphis Fire Department reviewing the video
The Memphis Fire Department said it received the video of Tyre Nichols’ traffic stop on Friday and is currently reviewing the footage.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who responded to the scene where Nichols was injured have been relieved of duty in the wake of Nichols’ death.
The Memphis Fire Department said its investigation will conclude early next week.
Jan 27, 1:06 PM EST
Nichols family ‘very satisfied’ with charges
Tyre Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, said at a news conference Friday that he’s “very satisfied with the charges” against the five police officers, including second-degree murder.
Although Wells initially said he wanted to see the officers charged with first-degree murder, he said, “As the charges were told to us and they explained to us what the difference between murder one and murder two was, we’re very satisfied with the charges.”
Wells pleaded with the public to protest peacefully.
“We want peace. We do not want any type of uproar,” he said.
Wells added, “The family is very satisfied with the process, with the police chief, the D.A. They acted very, very quickly in this case. We are very, very pleased with that. Other cases drag on, but this is a special case. We had a special son.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said she didn’t watch the body camera video of her son’s confrontation with police and urged people to not let their children see it.
Law enforcement, Nichols’ family and the family attorneys have already seen the video that’s set to be released to the public Friday evening.
RowVaughn Wells said the five officers charged in connection to her son’s death disgraced their families, but said she’ll pray for them and their families.
She added, “No mother should go through what I’m going through right now. No mother. To lose their child to the violent way that I lost my child.”
Jan 27, 12:55 PM EST
Family attorney: ‘This kidnapping charge — it is terrorism’
Tyre Nichols family attorney Antonio Romanucci stressed the fact that the charges against the Memphis police officers include kidnapping.
By Tennessee law, he said, “the definition that we are dealing with here on this kidnapping charge — it is terrorism.”
“When you think of 9/11, what’s the word that comes to mind? Terrorism. When you think of other heinous acts that have happened in churches across this country, any act of terrorism, what does that instill in you? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition that we are dealing with here on this kidnapping charge,” he said at Friday’s press conference. “It is terrorism. It was designed to terrorize the victim.”
Family attorney Ben Crump added, “One of the things that must be stated about the kidnapping charge … when you all see this video, you’re going to see Tyre Nichols is calling out for his mom.”
“He calls out three times for his mother. His last words on this Earth is, ‘mom,’” Crump said. “When you think about that kidnapping charge, [Nichols] said, ‘I just want to go home.’ I mean, it’s a traffic stop, for God’s sake.”
Jan 27, 12:31 PM EST
Ben Crump: ‘This is the blueprint going forward’
Ben Crump, an attorney for Tyre Nichols’ family, is applauding the charges, including second-degree murder, that were “swiftly” brought against the five Memphis police officers involved in Nichols’ traffic stop.
“When we look at how these five Black officers, who were caught on camera committing a crime, and when we look at how fast the police chief and the police department terminated them,” Crump said at a news conference Friday. “And we look at how swiftly the district attorney brought charges against them in less than 20 days, then we want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for any time any officers, whether they be Black or white, will be held accountable.”
“We won’t accept less going forward,” Crump said.
“We have a precedent that has been set here in Memphis,” he said.
Jan 27, 11:48 AM EST
FBI director watched video, says he was ‘appalled’
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday that he’s watched the video and “was appalled.”
“I’m struggling to find a stronger word, but I can tell you I was appalled,” Wray said.
He said alerts have been sent to FBI field offices across the U.S. instructing them to work closely with state and local partners “in the event of something getting out of hand” after the video is released to the public Friday evening.
Wray added, “There is a right way and a wrong way in this country to express being upset or angry about something, and we need to make sure that if there is that sentiment expressed here, it is done in the right way.”
Jan 27, 10:36 AM EST
Memphis police chief says video left her ‘horrified,’ ‘disgusted’
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said video of the traffic stop that allegedly led to Tyre Nichols’ death left her “horrified,” “disgusted,” “sad” and “confused.”
“In my 36 years … I would have to say I don’t think I’ve ever been more horrified and disgusted, sad … and, to some degree, confused,” Davis told ABC News’ Good Morning America on Friday.
When pressed on why the video left her “confused,” she replied that it was “just in the level of aggression and response to what had occurred in this traffic stop and is still very unclear, you know, as to the real reason for the stop in the first place.”
Davis said “there was much discussion about when an appropriate time for the video to be released,” and “we felt that Friday would be better.”
“We’re taking under consideration the reaction of the community that could potentially take place and ensuring that our schools, you know, are out, most business folks would be on the way home,” the chief explained.
“Even though this is a very, very difficult video to watch, it was never a thought that we would not release this video,” Davis added. “We wanted to make sure that it wasn’t released too prematurely because we wanted to ensure that the DA’s office, the TBI [Tennessee Bureau of Investigation] and also the FBI had an opportunity to cross some of the hurdles that they had to in their investigation. And we’re sort of at a point now that the DA has made his statements in reference to charges of these officers, that this is a safe time for us to release the video.”
Jan 27, 10:28 AM EST
Memphis calls for ‘safe’ protest
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said she expects residents to protest upon the release of the body-camera footage, which she called “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” though said “we need to ensure our community is safe in this process.”
“None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens,” Davis said in a statement Thursday, following the arrest of the five officers involved in Nichol’s arrest.
Authorities have warned law enforcement agencies of the reaction that may transpire when the official video footage is released.
Tennessee Sheriff’s Association President Jeff Bledsoe sent out a letter to Jonathan Thompson, the National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director/CEO, on Wednesday anticipating the public reaction to the video’s release.
“Due to the nature of the video’s contents it is believed it may spark responses outside of the traditional protests,” the letter read. “There is a public safety risk potential to communities and peace officers expanding outside of the Shelby County (Memphis) TN area.”
Other cities are also anticipating protests upon the release of the footage.
“We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Thursday. “We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful.”
In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department said it has “fully activated all sworn personnel in preparation for possible First Amendment activities.”
In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams told a local radio station on Friday, “It is imperative that New Yorkers exercise their right to free speech in a very peaceful way — and that is what we are expecting from the city.”
Jan 27, 10:24 AM EST
Nichols’ family reacts to bodycam footage
After viewing the body camera footage Monday morning along with their attorney, Nichols’ family said they saw the police kick, pepper spray and use a stun gun on their son all while Nichols repeatedly asked, “What did I do?”
“They handcuffed him and set him — propped him up on the car. And as he fell over they’d tell him, ‘Sit back up,"” Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, told ABC News earlier this week. “You know, and he would slump back over again and they would make him sit back up. They never rendered any aid.”
Nichols’ mother, Rowvaughn Wells, told ABC News that she could not watch the entire video.
“Once the video started and I heard my son’s voice, I lost it. I couldn’t stay in the room. All I heard him say was, ‘What did I do?’ And once I heard that, I lost it,” she said.
An independent autopsy, completed by a forensic pathologist hired by the family’s attorneys, found that Nichols suffered from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to the family.
Jan 27, 10:22 AM EST
Timing of body camera footage release
The city plans to publicly release the body camera footage of Nichols’ arrest sometime after 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.
“As we have said all along, we wanted to ensure the proper legal steps were followed and that the family of Mr. Nichols had the opportunity to view the video footage privately before we released it to the public,” Strickland said in a statement Thursday night.
“It is clear that these officers violated the department’s policies and training. But we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again,” he continued, noting the city is initiating an independent review of the specialized units’ training, policies and operations.
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