MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Now that the much-anticipated, widely-demanded video footage from the arrest that led to the death of Tyre Nichols has been released, the public at large is able to see for themselves exactly what happened that caused the 29-year-old to die at the hands of Memphis Police officers.
Attorney Ben Crump, representing the family of Tyre Nichols, called the video "heinous," and Attorney Antonio Romanucci likened Nichols to a "human piñata" during the video.
During a press conference Thursday, TBI Director David Rausch said he was "sickened" by the video, and Shelby County D.A. Steve Mulroy confirmed it would be released "at some point" after 6 p.m. Friday.
While it seems inevitable now that the video would be publicly released, that wasn't always the case.
Here's everything that led up to the release of video footage from Tyre Nichols' confrontation with MPD.
Jan. 11 - First calls for justice after Nichols dies
While MPD first publicly released information about the traffic stop on Jan. 8, calling Nichols a reckless driving suspect, it wasn't until the TBI announced they were launching a use of force investigation into the incident - and when Nichols later died - that activists started to call for justice.
The case drew the attention of the NAACP Memphis Chapter, who released a statement that they would "keep close watch of this matter along with General Mulroy," who initially requested the TBI to look into the situation, and likened the case to those of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
On Saturday, Jan. 14, protests formed for the first time at MPD's Ridgeway Station precinct, where the officers involved with Nichols' death were stationed. Among calls for justice, the activists also called for transparency.
"We’re calling on district attorney Steve Mulroy and we’re calling the chief of police here in Memphis to give this family transparency," one community member said during Saturday's protest. “The family has not even seen the police report. They have no knowledge of actually what happened. The only knowledge that they have is that their son is dead.”
Jan. 16 - Attorney Ben Crump publicly calls for video to be released
The family of Tyre Nichols hired renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump on Jan. 16, and Crump's office immediately called for the release of body cam video from the confrontation.
This came after Memphis Police announced that the officers involved in the arrest could face “administrative actions.”
"The most effective way for the Memphis Police Department to be transparent with the grieving Nichols family and the Memphis community is to release the body camera and surveillance footage from the traffic stop," Crump said in a release. "Nobody should ever die from a simple traffic stop – the footage is the only way to discern the true narrative of why and how that happened to Tyre.”
Jan. 17 - City leaders hint at video release for the first time
The City of Memphis and MPD said on Jan. 17 that video of the arrest of Tyre Nichols would be released when an internal investigation was completed.
In a statement, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief CJ Davis said MPD’s internal investigation was expected to be completed by the end of that week, and that they were arranging a meeting with Nichols family and attorney Ben Crump, who the family has retained. They said once the family had reviewed the video privately, it could be released.
The full statement from Strickland and Davis read as follows:
“We understand and agree that transparency around the events surrounding the death of Mr. Tyre Nichols is critically important, especially the release of the video footage. Because this is an open investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), MPD has reached out to TBI and the Shelby County District Attorney, Steve Mulroy.
The video will be released publicly after the completion of the internal investigation into the actions of the officers and after the family of Mr. Nichols has had the opportunity to review the video privately.
We anticipate that MPD’s internal investigation will be completed by the end of this week. The City has spoken with Ben Crump, attorney for the family of Mr. Nichols, and we are arranging a meeting with them early next week.”
D.A. Steve Mulroy also released his first statement on the video:
"Our office is committed to transparency and understands the reasonable request from the public to view the video footage. However, we must ensure we abide by applicable laws and ethical rules so that we do not jeopardize an ongoing investigation or prosecution. We’re working with the appropriate agencies to determine how quickly we can release the video, and will do so as soon as we can. We’ll be sure to update the public throughout this process."
Jan. 20 - MPD announces firing of five officers
Memphis Police announced Friday, Jan. 20, they fired five police officers involved in the traffic stop that led to Nichols' death.
MPD released the names of the five officers:
- Officer Tadarrius Bean, with MPD since 2020.
- Officer Demetrius Haley, with MPD since 2020.
- Officer Emmitt Martin III, with MPD since 2018.
- Officer Desmond Mills Jr., with MPD since 2017.
- Officer Justin Smith, with MPD since 2018.
In a statement, MPD said the actions of these officers were "egregious" in nature:
The Memphis Police Department has concluded its administrative investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Tyre Nichols. After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five (5) MPD officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.
Earlier today, each officer charged was terminated from the Memphis Police Department. The Memphis Police Department is committed to protecting and defending the rights of every citizen in our city. The egregious nature of this incident is not a reflection of the good work that our officers perform, with integrity, ever day.
A hearing was held Friday on the disciplinary process for the officers involved.
Jan. 23 - Tyre Nichols' family views the video footage
Attorney Ben Crump held a press conference at Mt. Olive Church Monday, Jan. 23, after Tyre Nichols' family privately viewed the footage of the traffic stop.
"We will see what they did to Tyre," Crump said as he asked activists to be patient for one to two weeks for the video, to allow the family "to get what they want most, which is justice."
Rodney Wells, Nichols' stepfather, asked first if there were any protests, for them to be peaceful. Wells called the video "horrific", saying, "No father, mother, should have to witness what I saw today." Wells continued talking of Tyre, saying "my son was a great, great kid. He didn't deserve what he got. Now what he deserves is justice." Wells also said justice for them is nothing short of "murder one. Anything less than that we will not accept."
He said, "Our son ran because he was scared for his life. He wasn't running because he had drugs he was trying to get a rid or had a gun. I want to get that out there of 'why did he run?' He ran because he was trying to get home (safely)."
Crump called the video "appalling, deplorable, heinous, violent, and very troublesome on every level." He said it is "evidence of what happens to Black and Brown people because of simple traffic stops." He said, "We have to ask America: how would you treat our White brother and sisters in a traffic stop? Then treat our Black and Brown citizens the same way."
Crump said Chief Davis told them she "was not proud of what they were about to see" in the video. He said "regrettably," it reminded them of Rodney King video.
He asked the community to keep the family in their prayers, especially Nichols' mother, who keeps asking, "Why my baby? Why my baby?"
Attorney Antonio Romanucci said Nichols was "defenseless" and a "human piñata" for police officers, and said Nichols was beaten for three minutes. "It was unabashed, nonstop beating. That is what is going to show up in that video," said Romanucci.
However, it was also announced that the D.A. and the City agreed to release the video "in a week or two."
Jan. 25 - MPD Chief C.J. Davis speaks out, calls the video content a "failure of basic humanity"
Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis spoke out for the first time on the death of Tyre Nichols Wednesday night, and confirmed more action was coming from the police department in the aftermath of Nichols' death.
In a statement posted to MPD's social media accounts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the Memphis police chief said the five officers fired on Friday were "directly involved in the physical abuse" that led to Nichols' death, and that more officers were under investigation for department violations.
Davis also said in the statement to expect release of the video from Nichols' arrest in "the coming days."
Jan. 26 - Charges announced against the five MPD officers, Mulroy confirms Friday video release
Steve Mulroy said Thursday video of the confrontation between Tyre Nichols and Memphis Police would be released by the city after 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Mulroy said - by his understanding - it would be a combination of SkyCop video and body cam video. He said the city was in charge of releasing the video.
"We did work quickly to expedite this investigation because of the extraordinary nature of the case compared to the average investigation and prosecution decisions. In a case like this. We worked swiftly but also fairly, and most importantly, in a way calculated to ensure that we have a strong case," he said.
During the news conference, TBI Director David Rausch said, "The video is absolutely appalling. This does not reflect policing. What I saw was sickening."
Mulroy continued, "While each of the five (former Memphis Police officers) played a different role, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols and all of them are responsible."
Mulroy also said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be pending.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted out a video Thursday afternoon following the news conference, thanking MPD Chief CJ Davis for moving quickly and DA Mulroy for "taking deliberate actions in bringing these indictments forward."