MEMPHIS — Video footage released on Friday night shows Memphis Police officers punching, kicking and using a baton to beat Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man whose death has rocked the city and led to murder charges against five Black officers.
The encounter begins with a traffic stop at an intersection, during which the police approach Mr. Nichols’s car with their guns raised and warn that he will get “blown out.” An officer yanks open the driver’s side door and pulls Mr. Nichols out of the car as he protests that he “did not do anything.”
He drops to the ground and lies on his side, imploring the officers to stop and saying, “I’m just trying to get home,” as they hold down different parts of his body. Though he appears to show no resistance, the police threaten to hurt him further and continue to order him to get on the ground, apparently wanting him to roll onto his stomach. One officer tells Mr. Nichols that he will “knock his ass out” and “break” his hands.
About two minutes into the encounter, an officer directs pepper spray into his face. At that point, Mr. Nichols gets up from the ground and runs from the officers, one of whom fires a Taser at him.
Roughly eight minutes later, after a pursuit, officers locate Mr. Nichols in a suburban neighborhood, not far from his home, and tackle him to the ground. A severe beating ensues as Mr. Nichols cries out in pain and yells repeatedly for his mother. Body-worn camera and a surveillance camera capture police officers continuing their assault on Mr. Nichols, with one kicking him so hard in the face that the officer nearly falls down.
Throughout the beating, which lasts about three minutes, Mr. Nichols does not appear to ever strike back. Several times, he moves his hands to cover his face, seeming to cower from the officers’ blows.
As an officer hits him from behind with a baton, Mr. Nichols stands up and staggers while officers hang on to his arms. As two officers hold his arms behind his back, a third officer delivers a series of powerful punches. Finally, after that officer hits Mr. Nichols three times in the back of the head, Mr. Nichols collapses to the ground.
Back at the scene of the traffic stop, body camera video from an officer who did not join the chase captures his reaction around the time that he learns that his colleagues have caught up with Mr. Nichols. “I hope they stomp his ass,” he says, twice.
By the end of the pummeling, Mr. Nichols is lying on his back, appearing dizzy. The officers drag him over to a police car and sit him up against it. The video images do not show him receiving any serious medical attention for several minutes.
Mr. Nichols, who worked at a Fed-Ex facility and was the father of a 4-year-old boy, died in a hospital three days later.
Five police officers have been charged with seven felony counts each, the most serious being second-degree murder. The Memphis police chief, Cerelyn Davis, told NBC News that the department had been unable to find evidence for why Mr. Nichols was stopped in the first place. The police initially said the episode began as a traffic stop on suspicion of reckless driving.
Jacey Fortin, Richard Fausset, Stephanie Saul, Mitch Smith and Patrick J. Lyons contributed reporting.