Police Beating in Memphis – The New York Times

Memphis police officers held Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, and took turns punching and kicking him as he begged them to stop, according to video released by officials yesterday. Nichols died in hospital three days after the January 7 traffic jam.

The videos are dull and sometimes hard to watch, but what they show is important. Today’s newsletter will focus on what we know and don’t know about the beating and public and official response.

Videos: The confrontation began while Nichols was still in his car, based on surveillance camera footage and the uniforms of police officers. Almost immediately, officers shouted for Nichols to get out of the car, using obscene words. They then forcibly pulled Nichols away and pinned him down.

Nichols was cooperative, telling officers, “I’m just trying to get home.” Although he showed no signs of resistance, they continued to scream and threaten him. As he lay on the ground, officers sprayed him with pepper spray. Nichols then fled, and officers pursued him. “I hope they stomp his ass,” said one officer who stayed behind.

Officers captured Nichols and then held him back as they punched and kicked him, beat him with batons and pepper sprayed him while he became increasingly incapacitated. He does not appear to fight or resist. He yelled at his mother at one point.

Nichols then leaned against a car as police officers surrounded him. Paramedics arrived on the scene, but they did not care for Nichols for 16 minutes. He was taken to hospital almost an hour after the initial traffic stop. (This is a timeline of the encounter.)

What we don’t know: The videos do not show why Nichols was blocked in the first place. Then, within minutes of being beaten, officers said on video that Nichols grabbed their guns, with one saying Nichols “put his hand on my gun.” If he did, it wouldn’t appear on the recordings.

Officers also said they stopped Nichols on suspicion of reckless driving, but in one NBCNews interviewSheriff Cerelyn Davis said her department was unable to find evidence as to why he was stopped.

Reactions: Memphis, a predominantly Black city with a history of numerous Black police chiefs, has largely avoided national attention amid protests against police misconduct. The killing of Nichols changed that. Last night, protesters blocked a bridge connecting the city with Arkansas and an interstate highway, attempting to block traffic.

Protesters in cities across the country express sadness, angry and exhausted watching the video images of Nichols. The protests remained largely nonviolent, although police in New York City arrested three protesters and one protester smashed the windshield of a police car.

Fees: Before the video was released, the five officers involved in the beating, all Black, had been charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping and other counts. A lawyer for one of the officers said: “Nobody out there intended to kill Tire Nichols that night. All five were released on bail and were released from prison.

The officers were fired from the Memphis Police Department. They had served in a special unit, called Scorpion, stands for “Street Crime Campaign to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhood” and was established to crack down on serious criminals. Mayor Jim Strickland said the unit had been idle since the traffic jam that killed Nichols.

Two county sheriffs who were at the scene after the beating were also relieved of their duties pending an investigation.

Police overhaul: Nichols’ family has called for a change in the Memphis police force and asked the department to disband the Scorpion unit. From 2016 to 2022, police used force against Black residents nearly three times more often than white residents, according to city data.

Following the 2020 protests over the killing of George Floyd, state and local officials around the country made changes that included banning strangulation, restricting the use of force, and requiring officers to must wear a camera. But activists argue the steps have not held police accountable and failed to prevent unnecessary violence.

What’s next: Protesters have planned many demonstrations today in Memphis.

  • American give up the problem Charles M. Blow wrote.

  • It is not particularly surprising that the five officers indicted in Nichols’ death were Black, says journalist Wesley Lowery tweeted. “When we track police violence, we’ve never seen that police race makes much of a difference.”

  • Automatic speedometers, license plate readers and other technology can better and safer enforce traffic laws more than police, Sarah Seo of Columbia Law School wrote for Times Opinion.

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