Tyre Nichols bodycam footage to be released as police culture blamed for beating

The Nichols family and attorneys speak ahead of the release of the video. <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
The Nichols family and attorneys speak ahead of the release of the video. (Image: Newsquest)

Bodycam footage will be released on Friday night of the beating of Tyre Nichols, which has seen five police officers charged with his murder.

The 29-year-old father, a black man, was pulled over for alleged reckless driving in Memphis, Tennessee on January 7, with lawyers for his family stating he had been heading home after taking pictures of the sunset at a local park.

Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said on Friday morning, in an interview with CNN, that the footage could not substantiate the reckless driving claim and compared the footage to the Rodney King beating that sparked race riots in Los Angeles in 1991.

Nichols is believed to have had a confrontation with the officers, who are also black, before fleeing on foot. Officers then caught up and attempted to arrest him.

He was then, according to family lawyer Antonio Romanucci, treated like "a human piñata" as the officers adminstered a vicious beating.

Davis said: "You’re going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we’re all sworn to and a level of physical interaction that is above and beyond what is required in law enforcemen.

"Individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don’t, then you’re not a human being."

Nichols, who called out for his mother during the beating, was hospitalised and died three days later. A cause of death has not yet been released.

The Nichols family held a news conference ahead of the release of the footage, accompanied by attorneys and the Southern Environmental Law Centre, with lawyer Ben Crump blaming the "culture" of the police regardless of the race of officers, repeating the mantra "call out the culture".

He said: "It is the institutionalized police culture of the excessive use of force against Black and Brown people… it cannot be tolerated… the culture allowed them to think they could do this to Tyre Nichols."

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The five officers are in custody and all facing charges of second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.

The officers in question were wearing bodycams and the footage will be made public by the Memphis police at around 11pm UK time on Friday.

A statement from president Joe Biden was released ahead of the footage being made available.

He said: "Jill and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and the entire Memphis community. Tyre’s family deserves a swift, full, and transparent investigation into his death.

"As Americans grieve, the Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and state authorities continue their work, I join Tyre’s family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable.  Violence is destructive and against the law.  It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice.

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"Public trust is the foundation of public safety and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. Tyre’s 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.

"We also cannot ignore the fact that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disparately impacted Black and Brown people.

"To deliver real change, we must have accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, the vast majority of whom wear the badge honorably, and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.

"That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk. When they didn’t, I signed an executive order that included stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level.

"Today, we all must re-commit ourselves to the critical work that must be done to advance meaningful reforms."