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Four videos, 56 minutes, seven Memphis police officers, one deadly arrest: What the Tyre Nichols footage shows

Four Memphis police  officers talk after fatally beating Tyre Nichols  (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Four Memphis police officers talk after fatally beating Tyre Nichols (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The release of footage of the fatal assault of Tyre Nichols graphically depicted the prolonged and savage fatal beating that was meted out by five Memphis Police Department officers.

But questions persist that the edited footage failed to answer, most notably the claimed traffic violation that had led officers to pull Nichols over in the first place, and what caused the officers to respond so violently.

The four videos from the officers’ bodyworn cameras and CCTV were taken between 8.24pm and 9.20pm on 7 January. It shows the 29-year-old FedEx worker being pulled over, dragged from his car, pepper sprayed and beaten during a traffic stop.

They are taken from two locations, the corner where Nichols was initially pulled over near the intersection of East Raines and Ross Rds, and about a half a mile away at Castlegate Lane where he is beaten with punches, kicks and baton strikes, and pepper sprayed.

Nichols died three days later in hospital. Five Memphis police officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder. Two other Memphis police officers were later relieved of duty, six more are facing discipline and three Memphis fire officials – two EMTs and a lieutenant – were fired over their failure to administer adequate medical care to Nichols.

On Wednesday 8 March, the US Department of Justice announced a review of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force and specialised units, following Nichols death.

The videos show intensely violent acts and The Independent has chosen not to publish them in full.

Video one: Tyre Nichols dragged from his car and tased

The first video begins at 8.24pm, and shows a police officer arrive at the intersection of East Raines and Ross Rds where several officers are shouting expletives at Nichols to get out of his car.

One opens the driver’s door and drags Nichols out, and forces him to the ground.

“I didn’t do anything,” Nichols says as officers shout simultaneous and contradictory orders at him.

Tyre Nichols is pulled over on the corner of East Raines and Ross Rds at around 8.24pm on 7 January (via REUTERS)
Tyre Nichols is pulled over on the corner of East Raines and Ross Rds at around 8.24pm on 7 January (via REUTERS)

“B***h put your hands behind your back before I break them,” one officer shouts. He then shouts at Nichols that “I’m going to knock your ass the f**k out.”

“OK, you guys are really doing a lot right now, stop. I’m just trying to go home,” Nichols says.

An officer continues to shout “get on the ground” as Nichols lies on the ground trying to comply.

“I am on the ground”, he replies.

Four or five officers crowd around him continuing to shout at him.

A white police officer draws his taser and fires it at Nichols. He eventually breaks free from several other officers who are holding him down and runs off down the road.

One officer chases him for about half a block before arriving at an intersection, panting loudly and out of breath.

The officer radios to say that he had deployed a taser and that the suspect was running.

“Young male Black, slim build, blue jeans and a hoodie,” he says in a description.

Two officers discuss hitting themselves with pepper spray.

“Yeah you sprayed me too, but luckily it didn’t get in my eye, just on my eyebrow,” the first officer says.

“I hope they stomp his ass... I hope they stomp his ass.”

Video two: Camera mounted on pole shows Nichols being beaten, kicked and battoned

A shot recorded from a police camera mounted on a pole near the corner of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove (AP)
A shot recorded from a police camera mounted on a pole near the corner of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove (AP)

Footage from a pole-mounted police security camera picks up the attack after the officers have caught up with Nichols about 800 metres from the traffic stop, on the corner of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove at 8.33pm.

The soundless clip shows two officers holding Nichols down on the ground. A third gets out of a patrol car and delivers two forceful kicks to Nichols’ head, taking several seconds between the strikes to aim as Nichols writhes in pain on the ground.

A fourth officer then arrives and gets up in Nichols’ face, appearing to shout something, before using his baton to strike him in the back and head several times.

Nichols struggles back to his feet.

The same police officer who kicked Nichols as he lay on the ground then punches him five times while two others restrain him.

The officer cocks his arm back as he circles and strikes Nichols, delivering each blow powerfully to the head.

Nichols is unsteady on his feet and does not attempt to fight back.

An officer then drags him over to a patrol car and props the seated, handcuffed Nichols up next to a patrol car.

He soon slumps over on the ground, in clear medical distress.

More officers arrive on the scene, panting and out of breath. Some shine their flashlights in Nichols’ eyes, and sit him back against the car.

One of the officers fist-bumps another. A separate bodycam footage captured audio of the officers stand around chatting about the pursuit.

“I was hitting him with straight haymakers, dog,” says one officer.

Another is heard to say: “I jumped in, started rocking him.”

Medics arrived at the scene at 8.41pm, but don’t begin to treat Nichols until just before 9pm, when one enters the frame and begins tending to Nichols who is lying on the ground seemingly unconscious.

Aid was first offered nearly 30 minutes after the assault on him began.

The view of Nichols is blocked by three officers.

The footage provides the only wide angle view of the deadly assault, and gives a much clearer picture of the calculated brutality of the assault than is captured by bodycameras.

Video three: Body-cam shows Nichols held down and beaten

Footage from one of the officers’ body cameras shows the same scene him as video two with audio.

The six-minute long clip starts as the officer wearing the camera gets out of his car, as Nichols is being held down by two other officers. The officers take turns at throwing punches at Nichols.

One says: “you want to get sprayed again”, before he pepper sprays directly into Nichols eyes.

An Memphis Police Department officer pepper sprays Tyre Nichols in the face (MPD)
An Memphis Police Department officer pepper sprays Tyre Nichols in the face (MPD)

Nichols repeatedly screams in pain and calls for his Mom.

One of the officers shouts “give me your hands boy,” as Nichols attempts to shield his eyes from the spray.

The officer wearing the camera steps away, exhausted, to get his breath back,

“Watch out, I’m going to baton the f*** out of you,” he says as three other officers who were holding Nichols down move out of the way. He delivers two strikes with his baton to Nichols’ head and torso.

The officers continuing shouting at Nichols to show them his hands.

Another officer arrives as the beating continues. Nichols can be heard groaning and pleading for the officers to stop.

“That mother****** made me spray myself,” one says.

Video four: Tyre Nichols screams for his mother

A 20-minute clip from another officer’s bodycam shows the beginning of the beating at the second location on Castlegate Lane.

The footage is obscured a few moments in as it seems that the camera was knocked off the officer who had been wearing it.

The audio captures the officers repeatedly shout “give me your hands”.

Officers from Memphis’ Scorpion unit stand around discussing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols. (Memphis Police Department)
Officers from Memphis’ Scorpion unit stand around discussing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols. (Memphis Police Department)

Nichols can be heard groaning and calling for his mother over and over. Her house was just a few hundred metres away.

When the footage picks up again, a bloodied Nichols is handcuffed and propped up against the police vehicle. An officer is shining a light directly into his eyes.

Six other officers stand around and discuss the pursuit.

One who is limping and complains that his leg is hurting appears to be the same officer who was seen kicking Nichols in the head.

“I sprayed, you sprayed, (another officer’s name) tased,” one officer is heard saying.

They then discuss how the suspect tried to grab the gun of one of the officers. There is no evidence in the footage released by Memphis PD of Nichols doing do.

“He had his hand on my gun, that motherf****er was going for it,” one says, apparently comparing notes on potential justifications for the brutal assault.

The officers then discuss the incident that led to the initial traffic stop, with one saying that Nichols had refused an order to stop and swerved around nearly hitting his car.

“He stopped at the red light and put his turn signal on. So we jump out the car, s*** went from there.”

As they continue to chat, Nichols can be seen slumping over again. The officer approaches him and as he struggles on the ground, one of the officers tells him repeatedly: “You can’t go no where.”

The officers speculate that Nichols was on drugs.

Key context that’s missing from the videos

Memphis police initially said in a release that Nichols had been pulled over for reckless driving.

In an interview with CNN prior to the release of the video, police chief Cerelyn Davis said a review of the available camera footage had been unable to find any evidence to support.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis (Associated Press)
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis (Associated Press)

“Even if something occurred prior to this stop, we’ve been unable to substantiate it,” she said.

In a separate interview with the Washington Post, Ms Davis explained that Nichols was originally stopped by an officer driving a brand-new, unmarked vehicle used for surveillance operations that did not have a dashboard camera.

She was unable to provide any information about what led up to the first altercation, or why the officer had been driving an unmarked car.

Ms Davis said the officers were already in an agitated state when they stopped Nichols, and had claimed that he was driving on the wrong side of the road.