Just a few scant years removed from the death of George Floyd and the extraordinary tumult that our nation faced in the aftermath, Americans are once again preparing themselves for a shockwave of potential riots.
That’s because the Memphis police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations are warning that a soon-to-be released video of the arrest and beating of 29 year-old Tyre Nichols is allegedly “appalling”.
Five former Memphis police officers who were fired for their actions during the arrest of Tyre Nichols earlier this month were indicted on charges including murder and kidnapping, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced Thursday.
The former officers, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr., have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression, Mulroy said.
Second-degree murder is defined in Tennessee as a “knowing killing of another” and is considered a Class A felony punishable by between 15 to 60 years in prison.
Those close to the deceased suggested that the video was going to be shocking, but also prayed for peace.
Nichols’ family and attorneys, who were shown the video Monday, said it shows officers severely beating Nichols and compared it to the Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King in 1991. Family attorney Antonio Romanucci told CNN the public should be “prepared” for a disturbing scene, saying it was like an “MMA fight” while Nichols was “helpless, he was defenseless, he was restrained.”
Nichols’ mother Ravaughn Wells, who said she hasn’t been able to watch it, said the video release will be “horrific” but urged protesters to remain peaceful.
“I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” said Wells.
Others who viewed the footage were similarly concerned, including DA Mulroy.
The video doesn’t capture the beginning of the altercation between the officers and Nichols but rather “cuts in as the first encounter is in progress,” Mulroy said.
“What struck me (about the video) is how many different incidents of unwarranted force occurred sporadically by different individuals over a long period of time,” the district attorney added.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said the fatal encounter was not proper policing.
“I’m sickened by what I saw and what we’ve learned from our extensive and thorough investigation,” he said. “I’ve seen the video, and as DA Mulroy stated, you will too. In a word, it’s absolutely appalling.”
In cities around the country, local officials are taking steps to bolster police and security ahead of any potential unrest, including in Georgia where Governor Brian Kemp went as far as to declare a state of emergency that would allow him to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops.