President Biden led a chorus of outrage over the gut-wrenching body camera footage showing the savage police beating of black motorist Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers that was released Friday evening.
In response to the shocking video, Biden released a statement saying he was “deeply pained” by the attack and added that the footage is certain to leave people “justifiably outraged.”
“Like so many, I was outraged and deeply pained to see the horrific video of the beating that resulted in Tyre Nichols’ death. It is yet another painful reminder of the profound fear and trauma, the pain, and the exhaustion that Black and Brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden said.
The 80-year-old president joined Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protests Friday night, pleading with “those who seek justice” to eschew rioting.
“My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ family and to Americans in Memphis and across the country who are grieving this tremendously painful loss. The footage that was released this evening will leave people justifiably outraged. Those who seek justice should not to resort to violence or destruction. Violence is never acceptable; it is illegal and destructive. I join Mr. Nichols’ family in calling for peaceful protest,” Biden added.
The president said he spoke to Nichols’ parents Friday, RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, and that “there are no words to describe the heartbreak and grief of losing a beloved child and young father.”
Biden called for a “swift, full, and transparent investigation” in response to the release of the video.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all. Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.
“That is why I called on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to my desk. When Senate Republicans blocked that bill, I signed an executive order that mandated stricter use of force standards and accountability provisions for federal law enforcement, as well as measures to strengthen accountability at the state and local level,” his statement concluded.
The recording shows Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker and a young dad, being mercilessly pummeled by five cops following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
The video further depicts officers pepper-spraying him and Tasing him as he writhes and squeals in pain.
“I didn’t do anything bro,” a stunned Nichols says as officers continue to scream orders at him.
Nichols died in the hospital three days after being beaten like a “human piñata,” according to an attorney representing Nichols’ family.
The five black officers who took part in Nichols’ arrest — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were subsequently fired and turned themselves in Thursday to face charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
All but Haley have since been released from jail on bonds ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.
Second-degree murder is punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison in Tennessee.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who announced his intentions to run for Senate in California on Thursday, said the video was “painful to witness” and called for “accountability.”
“Tyre Nichols’ brutal murder is so painful to witness. These images are unbearable, but we can’t turn away. We must all demand justice and accountability. My prayers are with Tyre’s family,” Schiff said in a tweet.
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) tweeted Friday that she was “horrified” by Nichols’ death and voiced her support of peaceful protests in light of the video release.
“There are no words when these unnecessary and unjust deaths occur at the hands of law enforcement. And I share in the outrage and horror that is felt,” Hobbs added in a statement.
“Tyree Nichols was a 29-year-old father and he deserved to grow old and watch his kids grow up.I send my deep condolences to his family and the Memphis community at this time. We need accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths and we need to restore the public’s trust in the institution,” she said.
Just hours before the video’s release, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, himself a retired NYPD captain, called the circumstances surrounding Nichols’ death “really concerning.”
“When a law enforcement officer participates in an unlawful act, that is extremely troubling,” Hizzoner said during an interview on CBS2 News This Morning.
Adams joined other mayors and law enforcement officials in cities across the US in asking the public to remain calm and protest peacefully without resorting to violence.
On Jan. 7, Nichols was driving home after taking photos of a sunset in a park when he was pulled over, allegedly for reckless driving.
Police said in a statement the day after the encounter that “a confrontation occurred” as officers approached the vehicle and Nichols ran; they said officers caught up to him and that ”another confrontation occurred” while they were taking him into custody.
Police said Nichols complained of shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital, where he died three days later.
Relatives have accused the police of beating Nichols and causing him to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said that Nichols experienced a medical emergency.
In an interview on CNN Friday, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said the video of the incident contained no proof Nichols committed any crime.
In a separate sit-down with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Memphis’ top cop admitted that “the stop itself was very questionable.”
In a video statement released Wednesday night, Davis described the beating as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” At the same time, she reminded citizens that it was not an excuse to lash out with violence.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and stepfather, Rodney Wells, held a candlelight vigil and prayer service for their son Thursday at a Memphis skate park, where they were joined by several dozen mourners.
RowVaughn warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video, but she pleaded with them to “protest in peace.”
“I don’t want us burning up our city, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully. You can get your point across but we don’t need to tear up our cities, people, because we do have to live in them.”
Nichols’ family members were shown the troubling footage Monday. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is leading their legal team, likened the brutal three-minute encounter to the 1991 beating of Rodney King, an unarmed black man, by LAPD cops. The savage attack led to massive riots that left dozens of people dead and more than 2,300 injured.
Nichols’ arrest also has been compared to the more recent case of George Floyd, who was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
Floyd’s death was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, which showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the unarmed black man’s neck for 9-and-a-half minutes as he cried out “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd’s killing set off large-scale protests across the US and around the world, and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and race relations.
Chauvin was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than 22 years in state prison.
Separately, the ex-cop pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, which he is serving concurrent with his state sentence.
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