The conduct of Memphis police officers during the confrontation leading up to the death this month of black motorist Tire Nichols “is a basic lack of humanity,” the Tennessee city’s police chief said as officials are preparing to release video of the incident.
“It’s not just a professional failure. It’s a basic lack of humanity to another individual,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said in a YouTube video posted Wednesday night.
“This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane. And in the interest of transparency when the video is released in the coming days, you will see for yourself.
Nichols, 29, was hospitalized after Memphis police used force to arrest him on January 7, and he died of his injuries three days later, the authorities said. Five Memphis police officers, who are also black, were fired for violating policies on excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to assist, their department said, and a prosecutor said that a decision on whether to file a complaint is forthcoming.
Lawyers for Nichols’ family say he was badly beaten, citing a video the family was allowed to see earlier this week. He had “profuse bleeding caused by a severe beating”, according to the lawyers, citing preliminary results from an autopsy they commissioned.
Other Memphis police officers are still being investigated for violations of department policy related to the incident, Davis said without giving further details.
Anticipating public reaction to the body camera footage as it was released, the police chief urged citizens to be non-violent even amid “our outrage and frustration”.
“I expect our fellow citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest to demand action and results. But we need to make sure our community is safe in this process,” Davis said. none of this is a calling card to incite violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
Nichols’ death on January 10 follows a number of recent high-profile cases involving excessive use of force by police against members of the public, particularly young black men.
Nichols, a Memphis resident, was arrested by Memphis officers Jan. 7 on suspicion of reckless driving, police said.
As officers approached the vehicle, a “confrontation” occurred and Nichols fled on foot, police said. Officers chased him and they had another “confrontation” before he was taken into custody, police said. Nichols then complained of shortness of breath, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and died three days later, police said.
Lawyers for Nichols’ family who viewed video of the arrest on Monday described it as a heinous beating by police that lasted three long minutes. Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said Nichols was tasered, pepper sprayed and restrained and compared it to the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police in 1991.
Two members of the city’s fire department were fired, in addition to the five police officers. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced a investigation into Nichols’ death and the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have launched a civil rights investigation.
Video of the incident could be released this week or next week, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN’s Laura Coates Tuesday night, but he wants to make sure his office has interviewed all those involved before posting the video so that it does not impact their statements.
Prosecutors are trying to expedite the investigation and may be able to make a decision on possible charges “around the same time we consider releasing the video,” Mulroy said.
Nichols’ family wants the officers charged with murder, family attorney Antonio Romanucci told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday night.