On Monday (Jan. 23), a press conference was held by attorneys for the family of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who lost his life following a traffic stop in Memphis.
“He was defenseless the entire time. He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was an unadulterated, unabashed, non-stop beating of this young boy for three minutes,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said during a news conference Monday.
Nichols’ family and legal team earlier Monday viewed the footage of Nichols’ arrest earlier this month, giving them an opportunity to see what happened before he was taken in critical condition to a hospital, where he died days later.
“What I saw on the video today was horrific,” said Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather. “No father, mother should have to witness what I saw today.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump compared the videos to the 1991 beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police Department officers.
“It is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous,” Crump said of what he saw. “It is violent. It is troublesome on every level.”
Ravaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, was unable to get through viewing the first minute of the footage after hearing Tyre ask, “What did I do?” on the video, Crump said. At the end of the footage, Nichols can be heard calling for his mother three times, the attorney said.
Crump, who was joined by Nichols’ mother, step-father, grandmother and aunt, said the family described Nichols as “a good kid” who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and computers.
Wells was visibly upset throughout the news conference. She called her son a “beautiful soul” who loved her so much, he had her name tattooed on his arm. “Nobody’s perfect, OK, nobody,” Wells told reporters. “But he was damn near.”
Memphis Police confirmed in a statement on Twitter that police and city officials met with Nichols’ family to let them view the video recordings, which Chief Cerelyn Davis indicated would be released publicly at a later time.
— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) January 23, 2023
“Transparency remains a priority in this incident, and a premature release could adversely impact the criminal investigation and the judicial process,” she said. “We are working with the District Attorney’s Office to determine the appropriate time to release video recordings publicly.”
The January 10 death of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, follows a number of recent, high-profile cases involving police using excessive force toward members of the public, particularly young Black men.
“Yet again, we’re seeing evidence of what happens to Black and brown people from simple traffic stops,” Crump said. “Simple traffic stops. You should not be killed because of a simple traffic stop.”
The Memphis Police Department has terminated five police officers, all of whom are Black, in connection with Nichols’ death January 10, three days after the department says officers pulled over a motorist, identified as Nichols, for alleged reckless driving the previous day.