A protestor steps on the windshield of a police vehicle, on the day of the release of a video showing police officers beating Tyre Nichols, the young Black man who died three days after he was pulled over while driving during a traffic stop by Memphis police officers, in New York, on January 27, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Waahington: President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and deeply pained” after watching video released Friday night of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.

“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 in a statement.

Beginning about 7pm Eastern time, Memphis officials made public a series of videos from the scene, including one taken from a pole. Officers could be seen pepper-spraying, punching and kicking Nichols, and striking him with a baton. At one point, Nichols, 29, cries: “Mom! Mom!”

After the beating, several officers stood around talking while he lay motionless on the ground.

Nichols, a Black man, died after injuries suffered during a traffic stop earlier this month. Five police officers, all of them Black, were charged on Thursday with second-degree murder in his death.

Vice President Kamala Harris, in a separate statement, said, “The footage and images released tonight will forever be seared in our memories, and they open wounds that will never fully heal.”

Before the release, the president expressed worry about the prospect of violence. “I am obviously very concerned,”

Biden said on Friday evening as he left the White House for Camp David.

“I spoke with Tyre’s mother and expressed my condolences,” the president said, adding he told her lawmakers should pass the George Floyd Act, a package of police reform measures that stalled in the last Congress.

“I can only do so much on an executive order at the federal level,” Biden added.

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An image from the video. Image Credit: AP

The video from police body-worn cameras and a camera mounted on a utility pole were posted online a day after the officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression in Nichols’ death.

The officers, all Black, were dismissed from the police department last week. Nichols, 29, was hospitalized and died of his injuries three days after the confrontation in the city where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx.

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The four video clips chronicle an aggressive escalation of violence directed at a motorist who police had initially said they pulled over for reckless driving. The police chief has since said the cause for the stop has not been substantiated.

The beatings appeared to continue far beyond a point where Nichols could pose any threat to police. At one stage, two officers hold him upright as another punches him repeatedly in the face, while other officers on the scene stand by without intervening.

Latest face of a US racial justice movement

The ordeal captured in the video has transformed Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old, into the latest face of a US racial justice movement galvanized by the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Nichols has been described by friends and family as an affable, accomplished skateboarder who recently enrolled in a photography class. Raised in Sacramento, California, he moved to the Memphis area before the coronavirus pandemic.

Demonstrators block a road in Memphis. Image Credit: AFP

Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said after seeing the video he had “concerns about two deputies who appeared on the scene” following Nichols’ arrest. Those deputies have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation, he said on Twitter.

After the video’s release Friday evening, several dozen demonstrators in Memphis marched along Interstate 55, shutting down traffic near a bridge that crosses the Mississippi River into Arkansas.

Three people were arrested for damaging a police vehicle during protests in Times Square, a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department said. Demonstrations appeared largely peaceful in other cities, including Atlanta, Washington and Sacramento.

The first video released on Friday shows officers dragging Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car stopped at an intersection as he yells, “I didn’t do anything ... I am just trying to go home.” Officers force him to the ground as they order him to lie on his stomach and squirt him in the face with pepper spray.

Nichols breaks free and sprints away down a road with officers chasing him on foot. At least one fires a stun gun at him.

Other footage shows a subsequent struggle after officers catch up with Nichols again in a nearby neighbourhood. Two officers are seen holding him down as a third kicks him and a fourth delivers blows with what appears to be a baton before another punches Nichols.

Nichols is heard repeatedly screaming, “Mom! Mom!” as he struggles with officers. His mother has said her son was only about 80 yards (meters) from home when he was beaten.

A stretcher is seen arriving 19 minutes after the first emergency medical personnel get to the scene.


Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis said before the video’s release that it showed behaviors on the part of police officers “that defy humanity.”

Nichols’ family and Biden appealed for calm in Memphis, a city of 628,000 where nearly 65% of residents are Black. Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, on Friday to express condolences, the White House said.

In a statement on Thursday, the president called for a full investigation and urged demonstrators to protest peacefully.

“It has a lot to say and do with the image of America. It has a lot to do with whether or not we are the country we say we are,” he said Friday night. “That we’re a country of law and order, a means by which we can peacefully protest and let the courts make the judgment.”

Police reform was an important issue for Biden during his 2020 campaign, after protests erupted around the world following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. The president often credits Black Americans for turning his campaign around after he won the South Carolina primary race, ultimately helping him secure the nomination.